Erectile dysfunction may be a strong predictor of heart disease

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Erectile dysfunction is a very common condition with many risk factors shared with cardiovascular disease. Researchers investigate whether erectile dysfunction can predict future cardiovascular disease.

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to maintain an erection which can have broader negative effects than just sexual satisfaction. Though not typically discussed, it is a very common condition that affects 49.4% of Canadians over 40. Traditionally, erectile dysfunction has been thought of as a purely psychological issue due to stress, anxiety, and depression. However, erectile dysfunction is now considered a much more complex condition.

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by hormonal, neurological, vascular (blood supply), or certain medical treatments such as pelvic surgery. While it is not a life-threatening issue, it can negatively affect self-image, partner relationships, and emotional well-being.

Similarities between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease

Recent research has found many similarities between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. They both share several risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. Yet, there has not been enough research to determine if erectile dysfunction is a predictor of future cardiovascular disease.

In a recent study published in the journal Circulation, researchers conducted a longitudinal study to see if erectile dysfunction could predict future cardiovascular disease.

The researchers gathered 1914 male participants of diverse background to complete a questionnaire about erectile dysfunction. They excluded participants with previous cardiovascular disease events excluded, leaving 1757 males. The remaining males were tracked for 3.8 years for any cardiovascular or coronary heart disease issues.

Antidepressants and beta-blocker treatments for high blood pressure have been known to cause erectile dysfunction. The researchers controlled for these two treatments to ensure erectile dysfunctions predictive power can be measured. Participants’ ethnicities were also controlled due to the ethnic-related relative risk of cardiovascular disease.

Erectile dysfunction may be a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease

After the follow-up, the researchers found 45.8% of participants reported erectile dysfunction. Interestingly, they found erectile dysfunction to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 1.9 times. However, coronary heart disease, such as stroke and cardiac arrest, showed no significant increase.

Erectile dysfunction is a very common condition with many risk factors shared with cardiovascular disease. Researchers found it is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease. In fact, according to the Princeton III Consensus Recommendations, it is a greater or at least equal risk factor for cardiovascular disease compared to smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. Though the researchers did not distinguish which type of erectile dysfunction each patient had which may have skewed the results, this study does show it is strongly associated with future cardiovascular disease.

Written by Aaron Kwong, MSc


(1) Kirby, M. & Jackson, G. Erectile Dysfunction as an Independent
Predictor of Future Cardiovascular Events. 19–23 (2009). doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.033990
(2) Yafi, F. A. et al. Erectile dysfunction. 1–47 (2017). doi:10.1038/nrdp.2016.3.Erectile
(3) Bella, A. J., Lee, J. C., Carrier, S., Bénard, F. & Brock, G. B. 2015 CUA practice guidelines for erectile dysfunction. J. Can. Urol. Assoc. 9, 23–29 (2015).

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