CINCINNATI—Valentine’s Day is the perfect time for a little romance.
However, problems in the bedroom for men could mean problems for the heart down the road, says a UC Health cardiologist.
A recent Australian study showed that men with erectile dysfunction have an increased risk for not only coronary artery disease but also heart failure, peripheral vascular disease and death.
Researchers looked at hospital and death data of 95,000 men in the "45 and up” study. Those men without prior cardiovascular disease who reported erectile dysfunction had a higher risk of heart attacks, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease and death; men with severe erectile dysfunction were 60 percent more likely to go to the hospital for coronary heart disease and twice as likely to die over a two- to three-year period as compared to men with no erectile problems.
Further, results showed that with increasing severity of erectile dysfunction, the risks of coronary disease, heart failure and death increased proportionately.
"The truth of the matter is that the problem is real, and patients seek treatment for it without realizing the associated risk of heart disease,” says Arumugam Narayanan, MD, assistant professor in the division of cardiovascular diseases at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. "Understanding this connection between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease may help better evaluate the patient for heart problems in the early stages.”
Narayanan says plaque buildup in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis, could manifest earlier in smaller arteries, such as those found in the penis. A manifestation of atherosclerosis in one area of the body can diffuse and progress to involve other areas, like the heart and extremities.
"Erectile dysfunction could, therefore, be a warning sign for heart disease in the future, prompting clinical evaluation and preventive therapy,” he says, adding that erectile dysfunction and heart disease share a number of risk factors that support a common pathologic mechanism.
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
- Family history of heart disease.
"A healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet and exercise is key in maintaining healthy heart and sexual function,” Narayanan says. "If you have erectile dysfunction and heart disease, it’s important to see your doctor and discuss your condition with him or her. A commonly used heart medication, called nitroglycerin or nitrates, adversely interacts with most medications used to treat erectile dysfunction, making them unsafe together.
"These two conditions have been shown in research to be linked to each other. It’s important to know the risks and to seek proper assessment and treatment early.”