Because heart disease and ED have a common cause -- damage to blood vessels -- it's been thought that erection problems may be an important symptom of heart disease and related disorders. They also share similar risk factors such as obesity, smoking, diabetes, inactivity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol abnormalities, write the authors.
This newest study shows "a strong association" between ED and heart disease -- and the most "substantial" link yet, writes Ian M. Thompson, MD, a urologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
His study appears in the latest issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Since many men do not get regular checkups, any sign of erectile dysfunction should prompt them to make an appointment for a complete cardiovascular examination, he notes. "This would be especially useful [information] for men who do not have regular medical assessments."
ED Linked With Several Heart-Related Disorders
His study involved 9,457 men who were evaluated for ED and heart disease over a seven-year period. All were aged 55 or older and participating in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial at 221 medical centers across the U.S.
At the study's beginning, 85% had no heart disease; almost half had erectile dysfunction. Among those without ED, 57% eventually developed it within five years.
After taking into account risk factors for heart disease, Thompson found that men who first reported erectile dysfunction during the study carried a 25% increased risk for developing subsequent heart disease during follow-up.
In men with ED at the study's start, the risk of developing subsequent heart disease risk was 45%.
The researchers say the risks associated with the development of heart disease in men -- with and without ED -- is in the range of traditional risk factors such as smoking and family history of heart disease.