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Erectile Dysfunction May Signal Heart Disease

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What does this mean in the big picture?

"Heart problems are very common, so even a relatively moderate increase in risk translates into quite a number of affected individuals," Banks said. "Among men with no past history of cardiovascular disease, an estimated six per 1,000 men per year who did not have erectile dysfunction went on to be admitted to the hospital for coronary heart disease. This compares with eight per 1,000 men per year with moderate erectile dysfunction and nine per 1,000 men per year among those with severe erectile dysfunction."

Also, she said, "among men with a past history of cardiovascular disease, an estimated 20 per 1,000 men per year of those without erectile dysfunction went on to be admitted to the hospital for coronary artery disease. This compares with 28 per 1,000 men per year with moderate erectile dysfunction and 34 per 1,000 men per year with severe erectile dysfunction."

Could drugs for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, actually help men with undiagnosed heart problems? Maybe.

"Medications to treat erectile dysfunction have proven benefits in treating [lung] hypertension and are being evaluated as a treatment for heart failure," said Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "However, there are no proven benefits for reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke."

Fonarow agreed with the study's conclusion that men with erectile dysfunction should get their hearts checked, especially since cardiovascular disease can have no symptoms.

The study authors said, however, that more research is needed before the presence of erectile dysfunction can be considered a clinical predictor of heart disease risk.

The study appears in the January issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

More information

For more about erectile dysfunction, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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