Erectile dysfunction may warn of heart disease

Erectile dysfunction may provide a warning sign of significant coronary heart disease researchers from the University of Chicago report in the January 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. Although recent studies suggest an association between erectile dysfunction and atherosclerotic vascular disease, this is the first study to link ED with abnormal results on cardiac stress testing, including evidence for severe coronary artery blockages and markers of a poor cardiovascular prognosis.

In this study, ED was a stronger predictor of significant coronary heart disease than any of the traditional office-based risk factors, such as family history, cholesterol levels or blood pressure. ED was also associated with reduced exercise endurance and decreased ejection fraction -- a measure of the heart's pumping capacity.

"This suggests we may need to ask male patients a new set of sensitive questions as part of the evaluation for heart disease," said cardiologist and study director Parker Ward, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and director of the cardiology clinic at the University of Chicago. "The good news is that a decrease in sexual function could provide an additional warning sign for the presence of heart disease."

The study focused on 221 men who had been referred to cardiologists at the University of Chicago for nuclear stress testing, a widely used non-invasive way to detect the extent, severity and reversibility of coronary heart disease. Before cardiac testing began, the men filled out a questionnaire that assessed erectile function.

Almost 55 percent of the men (121 out of 221) suffered from erectile dysfunction. Those men, on average, scored less well on exercise tests and measures of coronary heart disease. They had shorter exercise times, lower treadmill scores, and more frequently had a low ejection fraction.

They also had greater evidence for significant coronary artery blockages during myocardial

Contact: John Easton
University of Chicago Medical Center

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