Erection Problems May Signal Heart Disease and Complications

First Posted: Jan 30, 2013 11:49 AM EST

Erectile dysfunction may not just signal the need for a pill. New research has shown a link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease.

The Australian study, conducted by Emily Banks and colleagues, tracked more than 95,000 men aged 45 and up, and compared data collected between 2006 and 2009 to data collected in 2010. They then adjusted their statistics so that they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers from men who smoked or drank alcohol.

Overall, they found that men with severe erectile dysfunction were eight times more likely to have heart failure compared to those with no problem. These men were also 60 percent more likely to have heart disease and almost twice as likely to die of any cause.

In addition, the researchers found that men with even mild erectile dysfunction face an extra risk of developing cardiovascular conditions in the future. In fact, as erectile dysfunction becomes more pronounced, signs of hidden heart disease and the risk of an earlier death grow. Among men aged 45 and up, those with moderate to severe erectile dysfunction were up to 50 percent more likely to be hospitalized for heart problems.

The results show that men suffering even from a mild degree of erectile dysfunction should seek medical assistance for a heart health check.  However, erectile problems aren't a guarantee of heart problems. A variety of causes can contribute to impotence.

Currently, researchers are unsure why erectile dysfunction could be an early warning sign of hearth problems. However, it's possible that the arties of the penis are smaller than other parts of the body. This may make it more likely to reveal problems when the lining of the arteries deteriorates.

The study was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

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