After adjusting the statistical model for the other risk factors, plus depression and use of various medications, the authors found that subjects with ED were almost twice as likely to suffer a cardiovascular event - a heart attack, cardiac arrest, or stroke - compared with those without erectile issues.
"Our results reveal that erectile dysfunction is, in and of itself, a potent predictor of cardiovascular risk", Michael Blaha, professor of medicine at John Hopkins School of Medicine and co-author of the study, writes in a press release.
ED, defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse, affects almost 20 per cent of men over age 20, according to research. Researchers found that men with ED were twice as likely to have heart disease.
Previous studies have linked similar risk factors responsible for contributing to heart disease to erectile dysfunction as well, including obesity, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol lack of physical activity and smoking.
Doctors today warned that trouble getting or keeping an erection should prompt men to immediately seek help.
Researchers followed 1,900 men between 60 to 78-years-old for over four years.
This study found that impotence on its own is a significant risk factor.
Although ED is not a direct cause of cardiovascular health risks, it is a sign that middle-aged men should not ignore. "We should be asking about erectile function as a general health concern, because it's a risk factor and a treatable condition", says Blaha.
Study participants were enrolled in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, conducted in several US cities.
A greater proportion of men who reported ED (6.3 per cent) suffered heart attacks, cardiac arrests or strokes than men who didn't report it (2.6 per cent).
So what should an impotent man do?
It is suggested that men with ED should speak to a cardiologist.
The researchers adjusted for the effects of obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, among other factors, which can contribute to both erectile dysfunction and heart disease. That means that urologists who normally treat men for the condition should be open to referring their patients to heart experts, who can asses them for possible signs of early heart disease.
The study was published on June 11 in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.
"While there are effective treatments for ED, one must never overlook an opportunity to ask a simple question: 'Why?' In addition, men should be aware of the potential implications of ED and inform their provider", Becker said.
The study, published in the journal Circulation, found men with ED were almost twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than other men.
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