Even Minor Erection Problems May Signal Heart Disease, Early Death
Severity of erection problems may indicate risk of dying early or being hospitalized for heart disease.
By Jaimie Dalessio Clayton
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TUESDAY, Jan. 29, 2013— The severity of a man's erection problem may be directly linked to his risk of dying early or being hospitalized for heart disease, a large study suggests.
Researchers from Australia analyzed data from the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study, a self-reported study of aging men and women in Australia's New South Wales. Specifically, they honed in on questionnaire data from 95,038 men aged 45 and older.
The findings, published in the journalPLOS Medicine, suggest that even relatively minor erectile problems can indicate poor cardiovascular health. Risk of hospitalization for heart disease increased progressively with self-reported severity of erectile dysfunction.
"The risks of future heart disease and premature death increased steadily with severity of erectile dysfunction, both in men with and without a history of cardiovascular disease," said lead author Emily Banks, PhD, in a release from the Sax Institute.
While the results support past research establishing erectile dysfunction as a marker for heart disease (even mild erectile dysfunction), this study offers the strongest evidence to date that severity of erectile trouble matters. The study's size also allowed the researchers to pinpoint different types of heart disease men with erection problems are likely to face, including heart attack, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, and heart conduction problems.
"Rather than causing heart disease, erectile dysfunction is more likely to be a symptom or signal of underlying 'silent' heart disease and could in future become a useful marker to help doctors predict the risk of a cardiovascular problem," Dr. Banks said in the release. "This is a sensitive topic but men shouldn't suffer in silence; there are many effective treatments, both for erectile dysfunction and for cardiovascular disease."
In a 2012 report from the Princeton III Meeting on Cardiometabolic Risks and Sexual Health, experts recommended that physicians incorporate sexual function into heart risk assessment for all men, especially those under 55. Younger men between 30 and 55 who experience ED, they found, are twice as likely to develop heart disease.
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