Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

ED May Predict Heart Disease in Diabetic Men

Study Shows Erectile Dysfunction Bigger Predictor Than Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Levels
By
WebMD Health News

June 21, 2004 -- Erection problems may soon join high cholesterol, hypertension, and other well-documented risks as a way to predict likely heart disease in a group of people especially vulnerable to it -- men with type 2 diabetes.

In a new study, Italian researchers say that erectile dysfunction proved to be a stronger prediction of "silent" heart disease than more traditional heart disease risk factors such as high LDL (or "bad") cholesterol, low HDL (or "good") cholesterol, high blood pressure, or smoking.

The study looked at 260 diabetic men -- most were in their late 50s and had type 2 diabetes for about seven years with no known complications.

The researchers showed that men with type 2 diabetes and "silent" heart disease were nine times more likely to have erectile dysfunction.

"If our findings are confirmed, erectile dysfunction may become a potential marker to identify diabetic patients to screen for silent cardiovascular disease," says study researcher Carmine Gazzaruso, MD, of Maugeri Foundation Hospital in Pavia, Italy.

But cardiologist Ira S. Nash, MD, a spokesman for the American Heart Association, tells WebMD that this finding probably won't mean very much in treating diabetic patients.

"I don't think this is so earth-shattering," says Nash, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. " I have no reason to doubt that's accurate. But the question really is, if you know everything else about a patient, what's the marginal value in also knowing whether a patient has erectile dysfunction or not?"

A Three-Way Connection

Previous studies have shown that erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs in men with either diabetes or heart disease -- diseases in which blood vessels are damaged. Erectile dysfunction afflicts men with diabetes three times more often, and typically a decade earlier, than men without diabetes.

According to Alan J. Garber, MD, PhD, a hormone specialist of Baylor College of Medicine, one of every two men with type 2 diabetes will eventually develop erectile dysfunction. Of course, diabetes also increases risk of heart disease, often by damaging blood vessels and impeding blood flow, which are necessary for erections.

But even in men without diabetes, problems with erections could be an early warning sign of impeding heart disease, especially when impotence occurs at a younger age.

Earlier this year, researchers from St. Paul Heart Clinic in Minnesota reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that erectile dysfunction might be an early warning sign of damaged blood vessels that can result in an increased risk of heart attacks or strokes. They showed that men in their 40s who had erectile dysfunction but otherwise appeared to be healthy had subtle problems seen on testing their arteries. This indicated that although these men appeared healthy, they had heart disease.

Still, Gazzaruso says his study is the first to look at how both diabetes and ED could predict the risk of "silent" heart disease that often strikes men with diabetes.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 
Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article