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Erectile dysfunction linked to heart trouble: What men should know

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
What does trouble getting an erection have to do with heart health?

If you’re a younger man experiencing erectile dysfunction you may want to get your heart checked according to an expert panel of physicians. For men 55 years old or less, and even for men over age 30, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection might mean heart disease that could even be deadly in just 2 to 5 years.

According to Dr. Ajay Nehra, lead author of a report published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, it’s not just young men having problems with sexual performance who should have heart screening tests.

“Any man with ED should be considered at a substantially higher increase cardiovascular risk until further testing can be done,” said Nehra in a press release. “Erectile dysfunction often occurs in the presence of silent, non-symptomatic cardiovascular disease; and hence this is an opportunity for cardiovascular risk reduction.”

If you’re over age 30 and have had erection problems, the expert panel says you are at risk for heart disease. Your doctor can perform non-invasive testing that might include cholesterol screening, urine tests, a treadmill test or a nuclear stress test that traces the blood flow to the heart to see if there are any blockages and can be done as an outpatient.

Another non-invasive cardiac test that is simply performed in an office or hospital includes an echocardiogram, sometimes called an ultrasound of the heart. The test usually takes about 45 minutes.

The panel of experts found young men with erectile dysfunction are twice as likely to develop heart disease compared to young men who don’t experience problems with erections.

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Because low testosterone has been recently linked to heart disease and deaths, the panel also recommend men with ED be tested, though they say the suggestion is somewhat controversial.

“Men with testosterone levels less than 230 have higher risk for all cause and cardiovascular mortality,” said Nehra Studies of 500 or more patients show men with low testosterone levels have a higher risk of dying, compared to men whose levels are normal.

As research emerges supporting the link between heart health and erection difficulties, it’s become more important to address the issue.

Men 40 to 49 years of age with ED were found in one study to have 50 times the rate of coronary artery disease than men without erectile dysfunction, highlighted by the expert panel.

The link between ED and heart disease in men isn’t anything new. Based on an emerging link, researchers are making recommendations for clinicians to screen men who have problems with getting or maintain an erection for heart disease; especially young men.

Mayo Clinic Proceedings
August, 2012
"The Princeton III Consensus Recommendations for the Management '
of Erectile Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease"
Ajay Nehra, et al.

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