Erectile Dysfunction-Heart Risk Link

Study Shows 'Strong Association' Between ED and Heart Disease

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 20, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Dec. 20, 2005 -- If an older guy experiences erectile dysfunction (ED), he's got an even bigger problem -- a twofold risk of heart disease.

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.

"Our data suggest that older men in this group have about a twofold greater risk of cardiovascular disease than men without erectile dysfunction," Thompson writes.

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."

A major cause of ED is damage to blood vessels which provide blood flow to the penis. Other causes include damage to nerves, medications, and psychological factors such as stress.

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.

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SOURCE: Thompson, I. The Journal of the American Medical Association. Dec. 21, 2005; vol. 294: no. 23, pp. 2996-3002.
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