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Erection problems may be heart disease warning

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Even minor erection difficulties could be indicators for heart disease, a new Australian study has found.

Lead by Professor Emily Banks, the study is the world’s largest to look at the link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease, involving 95,000 Australian males participating in the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study. Published in international journal PLOS Medicine, it is funded by the Heart Foundation and NSW Government.

“These results tell us that every man who is suffering from any degree of erectile dysfunction should be seeking medical assistance as early as possible and insisting on a heart health check by their GP at the same time,” Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Health Director, Dr Rob Grenfell said.

“The study found that men with erectile dysfunction have a higher risk of hospital admission for heart disease and are also at greater risk of death, even if they have no history of a heart problem,” Dr Grenfell said.

“Erection difficulties are mainly caused by blockages in the small arteries that supply the penis and this is a good indicator of what is happening in other larger arteries in the body including those that supply the heart,” Dr Grenfell said.

“This is the ‘canary in the trousers’ for men across the country – if you have erection issues, it’s a warning that you may also have issues with your heart,” Dr Grenfell said.
“I urge any man suffering an erection difficulty to see their doctor to request a heart health check to measure their likelihood for having a heart attack in the next 5 years,” Dr Grenfell said.

Lead author and 45 and Up Study Scientific Director Professor Emily Banks said while erectile dysfunction is a sensitive topic, men shouldn’t suffer in silence.

“There are many effective treatments, both for erectile dysfunction and for cardiovascular disease and our research shows that even if men are having intermittent or mild erectile problems they really need to get their heart risk assessed,” Professor Banks said.

“Previous studies have shown that men with severe erectile dysfunction are more likely than men with no erectile difficulties to have cardiovascular events such as heart disease or stroke, whereas our research is the first to review gradients of erectile dysfunction from none, to mild, moderate and severe forms,” Professor Banks said.

The large numbers of men in the study meant that the researchers could also look at the risks in relation to a range of types of cardiovascular disease and they found that men with erectile dysfunction were at increased risk of ischaemic heart disease (heart attack), heart failure, peripheral vascular disease and heart conduction problems.

The research analysed data from the 45 and Up Study – the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere.

Dr Grenfell added that the study results are nationally significant and also demonstrate why Governments should be investing in large health studies such as the 45 and Up Study.

(Source: Heart FoundationPLOS Medicine)

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Posted On: 20 February, 2013
Modified On: 16 January, 2014


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