New York: Those who take cholesterol-lowering statins to keep their heart health in shape can further chill as statins have now been linked with a significant improvement in erectile function.
"For men with erectile dysfunction who need statins to control cholesterol, this may be an extra benefit," said John B. Kostis from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at the Rutgers University.
Erectile dysfunction is common in older men, especially among those with cardiovascular risk factors where cholesterol-lowering statins are frequently prescribed.
Previous research has suggested a negative association between statin therapy and testosterone levels, leading to questions about the effects of these widely used medications on the quality of erection.
In the first meta-analysis of previous studies on erectile dysfunction and statins, researchers identified 11 randomised, controlled trials that measured erectile function using the International Inventory of Erectile Function.
The analysis of all 11 studies found a statistically significant effect of statins on erectile function in men who had both high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction.
"The increase in erectile function scores with statins was approximately one-third to one-half of what has been reported with drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra," Kostis commented.
Researchers believe that statins may work to improve erectile function by helping blood vessels dilate properly and improving vascular blood flow to the penis, which is often restricted in men with erectile dysfunction.
While statins are not recommended as a primary treatment for erectile dysfunction in patients with healthy cholesterol levels, the added benefit may encourage more men who need statins to take them.
Millions of Americans are prescribed statins to prevent heart disease, but some stop taking the medication or take less than the prescribed dose, Kostis said.
Rather than preventing the possibility of a heart attack in the future, the more immediate benefit of improving erectile function might improve adherence to statin therapy, he added.
Erectile dysfunction occurs more often in men over age 40.
Common causes include heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, depression and stress.
The study is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.