Erectile dysfunction could help reveal cardiovascular disease risk
Erectile dysfunction has already long been associated with CVD and CVD mortality, and the risk factors for both conditions are similar, such as older age, smoking, obesity, and diabetes.
If erectile dysfunction could be used as a tool for detecting CV disease in its early stages, it could also be used to help implement earlier interventions to prevent heart attack and stroke including stopping smoking, medications such as statins, blood pressure control, weight management, exercise, and improved diet.
To investigate, a team of researchers from Baptist Health South Florida, Florida International University, and Mount Sinai Medical Center, carried out a new review and meta-analysis of 28 studies including over 3000 participants to examine the link between erectile dysfunction and measures of early CVD.
After analyzing the studies, the team found that there was a significant association between erectile dysfunction and impaired endothelial function. The endothelium is a thin membrane that lines the inside of the heart and blood vessels, with endothelial dysfunction already shown to be a predictor of stroke and heart attacks due to the inability of the arteries to dilate fully.
In addition, the team also found that erectile dysfunction was associated with increased carotid intimal medial thickness (carotid IMT), which is a thickening of one of the inner two layers of the carotid artery and an indicator of atherosclerosis, which can lead to CVD.
However, the results for the association between erectile dysfunction and coronary artery calcium scoring, a measurement of the amount of calcium in the walls of the arteries that supply the heart muscle, were found to be inconclusive due to small number of studies and limited sample size. The researchers commented that further research is needed in this area.
In particular, the team now believe that young men would benefit most from erectile dysfunction being used as a tool to predict the risk of CVD, as this group may often be categorized as low risk due to their young ages.
In an accompanying editorial, Drs. Naomi Hamburg and Matt Kluge from Boston University also added that, “The presence of erectile dysfunction portends a higher risk of future cardiovascular events, particularly in intermediate risk men, and may serve as an opportunity for intensification of cardiovascular risk prevention strategies.”