(RxWiki News) Signs of heart disease can be worrying at any age. A new study found that early signs of artery disease can signal more than just future heart problems in men.
This research found that men who had early signs of blood vessel problems were more likely to develop erectile dysfunction. Coronary artery calcium scores were the strongest indicator of long-term sexual function, the study authors found.
However, men with erectile dysfunction also had other signs of blood vessel disease in the carotid arteries.
The researchers said that men at risk of heart disease should eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise regularly and avoid smoking.
Erectile dysfunction may affect as many as 18 million men in the US, according to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Medicine. Erectile dysfunction occurs when a man is unable to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual activity.
David I. Feldman, BS, research assistant at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD, and colleagues studied 1,862 men for nine years. The men did not have a diagnosis or symptoms of heart disease at the time of the study.
Of the men in the study, 839 reported erectile dysfunction during the nine-year study period.
The research team looked for early signs that might indicate that heart disease would develop. These signs included plaque — a buildup of fatty material on the wall of an artery — stiffness of the arteries and calcium deposits in the arteries of the heart.
The study authors also studied blood flow in different blood vessels. Finally, they studied whether men with multiple signs were more likely to develop erectile dysfunction.
Coronary artery calcium indicates calcium deposits in the arteries of the heart. It is measured in Agatston units. The study authors found that men who had coronary artery calcium scores higher than 100 Agatston units were 43 percent more likely to report erectile dysfunction than men with normal calcium scores.
Men who later had erectile dysfunction were at least twice as likely to have scores above 100 Agatston units when the study began.
The study authors ruled out other possible causes of erectile dysfunction, such as smoking. They also ruled out high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes.
“Erectile function can be a window into men’s overall health," Feldman said in a press release. "Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease commonly coexist.”
This study was presented Nov. 18 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2014 in Chicago. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.
The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.