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Impotence may be early warning of heart disease

ATLANTA, Nov. 10 -- Erectile dysfunction may be an early warning sign of heart disease, according to research being presented today at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. Therefore, physicians should determine the cause of a man's erectile dysfunction and recommend additional evaluation in cases where it may be the result of diseased blood vessels, says the researcher.

Erectile dysfunction is defined as an inability to achieve or maintain an erection.

"Erectile dysfunction could be called a 'penile stress test,' and may be another way for detecting diseased blood vessels in much the same way that the exercise stress test, which measures electrical signals from the heart, is used to detect diseased blood vessels of the heart," says Marc R. Pritzker, M.D., of the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.

"We now understand that atherosclerosis detected in one set of blood vessels markedly increases the chances of having this form of blood vessel disease in other areas of the body including the heart, brain, legs and kidneys. Because the blood vessels that supply the penis are narrower than arteries in other areas of the body, atherosclerosis -- the disease process that leads to heart attacks and strokes -- may manifest itself as erectile dysfunction before the disease becomes apparent in other arteries. This provides a wonderful opportunity for strong preventive programs that could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes," Pritzker says.

Pritzker reviewed the histories and test results of 50 men with erectile dysfunction who had sought prescriptions for Viagra (a drug to treat impotence), and in turn were referred by their physicians for further evaluation. Although none of the men had symptoms of heart disease, 20 of them, or 40 percent, were found to have significant blockages in heart arteries, which are associated with chest pain and an increased risk of heart attack.

"Our population of patients was a very
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Contact: Carole Bullock
caroleb@heart.org
214-706-1279
American Heart Association
9-Nov-1999


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