More than 322 million men around the world will be impacted by erectile dysfunction (ED) by 2025 – a condition where a man can’t develop or maintain an erection – but it may also point to more serious health issues.
While it can impact a man’s ability to have sexual intercourse, cause embarrassment and affect their mental health, new research shows there’s also an association between ED and cardiovascular disease. A new study published in the BJU International Journal claims there is “a wealth of evidence” supporting a link between the two conditions.
Cardiovascular disease is a collective term for diseases of the blood vessels and heart and includes a range of conditions such as coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, heart failure and arrhythmia. It’s currently the leading cause of death and disease in Australia and its risk is increased by smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, as well as non-modifiable risks such as age, gender, ethnicity and genetics.
Analysing population-based studies from the Excerpta Medica dataBASE and MedicalLiterature Analysis and Retrieval System Online, British researchers observed an increased prevalence and incidence in a number of cardiovascular conditions in studies of men who had ED.
These conditions included hypertension, heart attack, ischaemic heart disease, angina and stroke. Researchers found ED was “positively associated” with cardiovascular disease and that men with ED had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
What’s more, men experiencing ED were found to be between 1.33 to 6.24 times more likely to have benign prostatic hyperplasia (enlargement of the prostate gland) than those without it and 1.68 times more likely to develop dementia than men without ED.
Still, based on the cross-sectional population studies analysed, researchers haven’t been able to determine the cause and effect between ED and cardiovascular disease. This means cardiovascular disease may increase the risk of ED, or vice versa.
It follows research published in the Vascular Medicine Journal which found risk factors of ED including older age, smoking, obesity and diabetes can also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. They also found that there are multiple overlapping mechanisms that lead to the development of both conditions and that ED could be used as a simple and effective marker of cardiovascular disease.
Meanwhile, a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation in 2018 found men aged between 60 and 78 who reported ED were twice as likely to experience heart attacks, cardiac arrests, sudden cardiac death and fatal or non-fatal strokes. The results were the same – regardless of other risk factors such as cholesterol, smoking and high blood pressure.
It’s always important to talk to a GP about ED and to be honest about it if speaking to a heart specialist such as a cardiologist. This will ensure the best possible treatment for ED is offered and determine whether further testing is required to assess whether there’s a link between the two conditions.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.