ED is defined as the inability to achieve and maintain an erection during sexual intercourse. The disorder is thought to affect as many as 80% of elderly men, especially those with other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes.
Previous studies have already linked erectile dysfunction to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke in men, but researchers say few studies have followed a large group of men with the disorder and other pre-existing illnesses over time.
In this study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers examined the relationship between ED and heart-related complications, such as heart attack, stroke, or death, in 6,304 men aged 55 to 88 with type 2 diabetes over a five-year period.
36% more likely to have a stroke or other type of cerebrovascular disease (disease of blood vessels supplying the brain).
Researcher G. David Batty, PhD, of the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow, Scotland, and colleagues say the results suggest that rather than having an independent effect on heart disease, it's more likely that ED is a marker of heart disease risk among men with diabetes.
The researchers note that arteries in the penis are substantially narrower than those in the heart, brain, and elsewhere, making them more vulnerable to the effects of atherosclerosis. So for the same amount of plaque buildup, ED may precede other similar vascular events in other parts of the body.