May 21, 2010 -- Erectile dysfunction is an early warning sign of heart disease and may provide a window of opportunity to stave off heart attacks and strokes, according to a review article in the June issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice.
Men with erectile dysfunction typically develop heart-related symptoms within two to three years, and they are at risk of experiencing a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke within three to five years, the study shows.
“Erectile dysfunction can be an early marker of coronary disease which is asymptomatic, so it could predict a cardiac event in the next two to five years,” says researcher Graham Jackson, MD, a cardiologist at London Bridge Hospital in London. “Erectile dysfunction may be associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and all the other risk factors for a coronary event [that] may not have been detected, but erectile dysfunction gives us a chance to find risk factors and treat before they become a major problem.”
Both erectile dysfunction and heart disease can be caused by atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which restricts blood flow to both organs.
In fact, erectile dysfunction will be a harbinger of heart disease in about two-thirds of men. This link is more pronounced in otherwise healthy men aged 40 to 69 than in older men, the new study shows.
According to the new report, otherwise healthy men and men with type 2 diabetes who develop erectile dysfunction often have early signs of heart disease, such as reduced blood flow to the heart and calcium deposits in their heart arteries. Erectile dysfunction is also a marker of more severe heart disease and left ventricular dysfunction, a disorder in which the heart’s main pumping chamber is weak.
“By treating erectile dysfunction, we can save a love life, but we can also use erectile dysfunction as a means of saving a life,” Jackson says. “Just because the penis is heading in the wrong direction does not mean the heart has to follow.”