Washington: An Australian study has found that men with erectile dysfunction have a higher risk of hospital admission for heart disease, even if they have no history of heart problems and are also at greater risk of premature death from any cause.
The research, from the Sax Institute`s 45 and Up Study, is the first to show a direct link between how severe a man`s erection problem is and his risk of dying early or being treated in hospital for heart disease.
"The risks of future heart disease and premature death increased steadily with severity of erectile dysfunction, both in men with and without a history of cardiovascular disease," lead author and 45 and Up Study Scientific Director Professor Emily Banks said.
"Rather than causing heart disease, erectile dysfunction is more likely to be a symptom or signal of underlying `silent` heart disease and could in future become a useful marker to help doctors predict the risk of a cardiovascular problem. This is a sensitive topic but men shouldn`t suffer in silence; there are many effective treatments, both for erectile dysfunction and for cardiovascular disease," she stated.
Erection problems are very common: around one in five men aged 40 and over report moderate or severe erectile dysfunction.
While previous studies have shown that men with severe erectile dysfunction are more likely than men with no erectile difficulties to have cardiovascular events such as heart disease or stroke, this study is the first to review gradients of erectile dysfunction from none, to mild, moderate and severe forms.
The researchers, from the Sax Institute, Australian National University, The University of Sydney, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and The George Institute for Global Health examined hospital and death records for 95,000 men from the 45 and Up Study - the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere, with more than 250,000 people taking part.
"We found men with erectile dysfunction were at higher risk of heart attack, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease and heart conduction problems," Professor Banks said.
The results of the study have been published in international journal PLOS Medicine.