January 31, 2006

Erectile dysfunction linked to heart disease

Erectile dysfunction (E.D.) in older men may be an indication of significant coronary heart disease, according to a January 23 study by researchers at the U of C.

Parker Ward, senior researcher of the study and a cardiologist at the U of C Hospitals, said the unlikely connection between the two was made because “the risk factors for erectile dysfunction are the same risk factors for heart disease.”

Noting that penile arteries are much smaller than coronary arteries, the researchers argued that the “comparatively small amounts” of arterial hardening would cause erectile dysfunction.

According to a University press release, the researchers focused on 221 elderly men who had been referred for cardiac stress testing, which involves running on a treadmill to assess heart function. Questionnaires on erectile function filled out by the men were compared to their test results. On average, the men who suffered from erectile dysfunction scored less well on exercise tests and measures of coronary heart disease.

Although the study is but one in a series of recent studies that correlate erectile dysfunction and heart disease, it is the first to link erectile dysfunction with abnormal cardiac stress testing.

“I think the important message is that men should not be bashful about mentioning symptoms of E.D. to their physician,” Ward said. “We need to take some of the social taboo off this.”

Contrary to what some media sources have reported, Ward added, the study has no immediate relevance to college-age men, as the median age for the study population was 60.

“There are a lot of other causes in younger men…that potentially can impact erectile dysfunction,” Ward said, citing “alcohol investment” and “emotional causes” among others.

“Make sure your compatriots don’t come running over for stress tests,” he added.