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Why Death Follows Bad Sex with Some Men

Tim Boyer's picture
Death and sexual health in men

In a recent study published in the online journal PLoS Medicine, researchers have found that men reporting poor performance resulting in bad sex due to erectile dysfunction (ED) have much more to worry about than just their penis―their heart.

While erectile dysfunction has previously been linked to cardiovascular disease, its usefulness as a harbinger of an impending heart attack or other cardiovascular myopathy has not been established very clearly until the conclusion of a large prospective population-based study involving 95,038 men from New South Wales, Australia. In the study, researchers found that there is a direct positive correlation between the severity of erectile dysfunction a man has with his risk of developing or having developed previously undiagnosed cardiovascular disease.

A leading cause of death, cardiovascular disease manifests in a significant proportion of individuals who do not have the classic risk factors that include tobacco and alcohol use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity, lack of exercise and a nutritionally poor diet. Furthermore, symptoms such as chest pain or a sudden numbness of the face or arms are poor indicators of heart disease due to the fact that they do not manifest until relatively late in the game.

However, what researchers believe may be a good and useful indicator of potentially impending severe heart disease is when a man reports to his physician that he is beginning to experience erectile difficulties that have become chronic and progressive.

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Erectile dysfunction is defined clinically as the inability to achieve and maintain a firm erection of the penis during and throughout sexual intercourse. While some degree of erectile dysfunction is a normal part of the aging process and can be due to other causes such as taking medications, mid-life stress, a hormonal imbalance or depression, it can also be caused by cardiovascular disease resulting in blocking of the blood vessels responsible for engorging a penis during sexual stimulation.

Because of this link between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, the researchers of the study sought to investigate the relationship between the severity of erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease as a potential marker of risk in a large population of men with and without a previous diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. The study was a compilation of data from questionnaires assessing the level of erectile dysfunction reported by participants between 2006–2009 with follow-up hospitalization and death data of the participants between June and December of 2010.

Between June and December of 2010 the study determined that there were 7,855 hospital admissions related to cardiovascular disease and 2,304 deaths. What the researchers found was that using statistical analysis that compensated for other factors that could confound the results such as family history of heart disease, underlying medical conditions, lifestyle and habits, etc., that the degree of severity of erectile dysfunction reported correlated in a positive and predictable manner with the development of heart disease. In other words, the more trouble a man has with bad sex in bed, the more likely he is of developing severe heart disease.

The authors of the study want to make clear that erectile dysfunction is not a risk factor that causes cardiovascular disease, but rather that their results show that erectile dysfunction is a risk marker for cardiovascular disease. Their conclusion of the study’s results is that men who are experiencing bad sex due to erectile dysfunction―even at mild or moderate levels―should be screened and treated for cardiovascular disease accordingly by their physician before allowing the disease to progress any further.

Image Source: Courtesy of Morgue File

Reference: “Erectile Dysfunction Severity as a Risk Marker for Cardiovascular Disease Hospitalisation and All-Cause Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study” PloS Medicine; published 29 Jan 2013; Emily Banks, Grace Joshy, Walter P. Abhayaratna, Leonard Kritharides, Peter S. Macdonald, Rosemary J. Korda, John P. Chalmers.