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Erectile dysfunction, cardiovascular disease link is studied

A healthier lifestyle may go a long way in reducing the risk of erectile dysfunction, a study finds, while another paper discovers that men who have the condition may also have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

A meta-analysis published online Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine looked at how lifestyle changes and medication to treat cardiovascular risks affected erectile dysfunction. In six studies that included 640 participants, four dealt with lifestyle changes, and two with the use of statins.

All studies showed that as diet and exercise improved along with lipid profiles, so did symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Improvements in cardiovascular risk factors were linked with improvements in sexual function in men with erectile disfunction, even when researchers considered only data in the lifestyle trials.

Another meta-analysis in the Sept. 20 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology looks at the association between erectile disfunction and cardiovascular disease, finding that having erectile disfunction might up the risk of having the condition.

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Researchers looked at 12 studies published in various countries between 2005 and 2011 and included 36,744 men. What’s been unclear, the study authors wrote, is the nature of the relationship between erectile disfunction and cardiovascular disease: cardiovascular disease is a risk factor for erectile disfunction, and erectile disfunction is recognized as a marker for other vascular diseases. But is erectile dysfunction on its own a risk factor for cardiovascular disease?

In analyzing the studies, a link was seen between erectile disfunction and a greater risk of having cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, and death from all causes. Men who had erectile dysfunction had a 48% increased risk for cardiovascular disease, a 46% greater risk for heart disease, a 35% higher risk for stroke, and a 19% increased risk for death from all causes compared with men in control groups who didn’t have erectile disfunction.

After controlling for cardiovascular risk factors such as age, blood pressure, diabetes, body mass index, smoking and cholesterol, a greater risk for cardiovascular disease was still seen. Although the reason for the link is not known, researchers say that delving into psychological factors such as depression and anxiety may offer some clues, and they speculate whether treating erectile disfunction through exercise, a better diet and medication could protect against cardiovascular disease.


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