BALTIMORE — Suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a frustrating experience for many older men in the bedroom, but it may signal far worse outcomes than simply a lost opportunity for intimacy. A new study finds that ED greatly raises a man’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other potentially deadly heart conditions.
Prior studies have shown limited evidence of a connection between erectile dysfunction and heart disease, but this latest work is believed to be the most conclusive findings yet. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine say that older men with ED were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke cardiac arrest, and sudden cardiac death. The findings were conclusive regardless of other risk factors, including cholesterol or high blood pressure.
“Our results reveal that erectile dysfunction is, in and of itself, a potent predictor of cardiovascular risk,” says study senior investigator Dr. Michael Blaha, an associate professor of medicine at Hopkins, in a release from the American Heart Association.
For the study, the research team pulled data on nearly 2,000 men between ages 60 and 78 participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, which followed more than 6,000 Americans who come from a spectrum of backgrounds. Health information was provided by participants over a four-year period.
Researchers calculated the total number of fatal and non-fatal heart attacks, fatal and non-fatal strokes, cardiac arrests and sudden cardiac deaths among participants over the four years. They found that 6.3 percent of men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction had suffered one of the ailments, compared to just 2.6 percent of men who didn’t have ED. Even after adjusting for other risk factors, they determined that men with ED were twice as likely to suffer one of the conditions.
The authors believe it may be prudent for doctors to ask middle-aged patients about any experiences with ED in order to better predict any future heart problems. Just last year, physicians in the United Kingdom began including ED in a risk-scoring algorithm that considers a man’s 10-year risk for suffering any adverse heart issues.
“Our findings suggest that clinicians should perform further targeted screening in men with erectile dysfunction, regardless of other cardiac risk factors and should consider managing any other risk factors — such as high blood pressure or cholesterol — that much more aggressively,” says Blaha.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly 20 percent of men over the age of 20 battle erectile dysfunction issues. Blaha says men who see a doctor for the condition should also be given — especially at their own behest — a complete cardiovascular evaluation.
“The onset of ED should prompt men to seek comprehensive cardiovascular risk evaluation from a preventive cardiologist,” says Blaha. “It is incredible how many men avoid the doctor and ignore early signs of cardiovascular disease, but present for the first time with a chief complaint of ED. This is a wonderful opportunity to identify otherwise undetected high-risk cases.”
The full study was published June 11, 2018 in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.
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