ED Signals Need For Heart Check

Cardiovascular disease and death risks increase with severity of erectile dysfunction

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem, especially for men over 40. For some men, ED is a red flag for heart problems. As such, men with ED may need to keep a closer watch on their heart health.

ED is the inability to get or keep an erection. Research has suggested that ED is a "marker" for cardiovascular disease in men that were not previous diagnosed with the disease.

A recent study found that the risk for cardiovascular disease and death increased with the severity of ED. This link held true for men with and without a history of cardiovascular disease.

"If you start experiencing ED, get your heart checked out."

Emily Banks, PhD, of National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, and colleagues set out to determine the relationship between severity of ED and cardiovascular disease outcomes.

The study included 95,038 men aged 45 and over. These men were part of a larger study that examined different behaviors and health outcomes using questionnaires. Researchers used ED information reported through questionnaires and hospital data of the participants.

During the study, 7,855 men were hospitalized for a cardiac event and 2,304 men died. Cardiac events included heart disease, heart failure and peripheral vascular disease (circulatory problems in lower part of body).

Compared to those without ED, men with severe ED had significantly increased risks of cardiac events and death. For men with severe ED, researchers found the following:

  • 1.60 times increased risk for ischemic heart disease
  • 8.00 times increased risk for heart failure
  • 1.92 times increased risk for peripheral vascular disease
  • 1.93 times increased risk for death

Study authors noted that ED is unlikely to be a major independent cause of cardiac events. ED is better considered as a "risk marker" for cardiac problems. Men experiencing ED should have their cardiovascular system checked out.

There were some limitations to the study. ED severity but not duration was measured using a questionnaire. Also, there was no information about medications used.

Information about other risk factors that could have affected cardiovascular events was not collected.

This study, titled "Erectile Dysfunction Severity as a Risk Marker for Cardiovascular Disease Hospitalisation and All-Cause Mortality: A Prospective Cohort," was published in PLOS Medicine journal. It was funded by the National Heart Foundation and NSW Cardiovascular Research Network. One of the authors received grants and lecture fees from Servier for ADVANCE trials. Another author received lecture fees from Pfizer. Servier and Pfizer are pharmaceutical companies.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 5, 2013
Last Updated:
August 19, 2013