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Erectile dysfunction may be an early sign of heart disease

Erectile dysfunction (ED) may be an early sign of heart disease, new research suggests.

Researchers carried out a review of 26 previous studies that investigated the link between the two conditions.

They suggest that impaired blood flow may explain the association.

There was a strong connection identified between ED and poor endothelial function, where blood vessels are unable to fully dilate and allow blood to flow through.

Endothelial dysfunction is an early sign of atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries, raising the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Researchers suggest that impaired blood flow may explain the association between ED and heart disease (stock image)

Furthermore, the researchers from Baptist Health South Florida discovered that ED was linked with an increase in carotid intimal medial thickness (CIMT).

This is when there is plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries supplying blood to the head – and is an early marker of atherosclerosis.

‘These relationships remained consistent within age, study quality, methods of assessing ED, and publication year subgroups,’ the researchers noted in their paper published in the journal Vascular Medicine. 

These findings are particularly important for younger men, who are less likely to be assessed for heart problems, say the study authors.

Previous research 


Half of middle-aged people who are a normal weight and do not smoke or have diabetes have clogged arteries, new research suggests.

This is because people who don’t easily gain weight are often less aware of how much saturated and trans fat they eat.

In turn this leads to high levels of LDL cholesterol – often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’.

Academics from the Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research discovered this is the key reason why arteries harden – a process called atherosclerosis.

The disease causes arteries to become clogged with fatty substances called plaques, which over time, narrows them. This causes most heart attacks and strokes.

According to NHS Choices, the condition is largely preventable with a healthy lifestyle. 

The findings show that people need to make more effort to lower their cholesterol, say the study authors.

Research earlier this year found men at-risk of heart disease are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction.

Scientists found that all men who are at a high risk of heart disease report sexual dysfunction. In contrast, only 15 per cent of men at a low risk of heart disease suffer from erectile complaints. 

The researchers from Northwestern University focused on seven risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar, being overweight or obese, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and smoking. 

The author of that study, Dr Abbi Lane-Cordova, said: ‘We knew that erectile dysfunction was considered an early indicator of vascular disease that might occur before heart disease was diagnosed by a doctor.

‘This study showed that men who were less likely to have risk factors for heart disease and had healthier behaviors (non-smoking, physically active, healthier diet) were also less likely to have erectile dysfunction later in life.

‘Men may avoid erectile dysfunction the same way they may avoid heart disease.’

Erection problems affects 60 per cent of men over the age of 60. 

Most men occasionally fail to get or keep an erection. This is usually due to stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol. 

It’s nothing to worry about – but you should see a GP if it keeps happening notes NHS Choices.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK, but it can often largely be prevented with a healthy lifestyle.