Erectile dysfunction

Updated 02 March 2017

Early heart disease may lead to impotence

Early stage vascular disease can affect a man's sexual health and may lead to later-life impotence.


Early stage vascular disease may lead to impotence for men later in life, a new study says.

Best predictor for erectile dysfunction

"Erectile function can be a window into men's cardiovascular and overall health. Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease commonly coexist," lead author David Feldman, a research assistant at Johns Hopkins University's Centre for the Prevention of Heart Disease, said in an American Heart Association news release.

The study, to be presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago, included more than 1 800 men without heart disease who were tracked for more than nine years.

"We looked at which measurement of early vascular disease was the best predictor for erectile dysfunction. We also looked at whether those men with multiple abnormalities, such as increased plaque in addition to arterial stiffness and dysfunction, were more likely to also suffer from erectile dysfunction," Feldman said.

Read: FAQs on erectile dysfunction

The men who had higher amounts of calcified plaque in their heart arteries were much more likely to later develop erectile dysfunction than those with no such plaque.

A number of other measures of early vascular disease were also associated with later development of erectile dysfunction, including higher levels of plaque build-up in the neck arteries that supply blood to the head and brain.

Artery plaque levels affect sexual health

After factoring in age, race, sex and traditional risk factors such as diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and obesity, the researchers concluded that men with higher levels of artery plaque and stiffness were 53 percent more likely to later develop erectile dysfunction.

While researchers found a link between vascular disease and later erectile dysfunction, it did not prove cause-and-effect.

Read: 9 facts on erectile dysfunction

Men at risk for vascular disease and erectile dysfunction should eat a heart-healthy diet, get regular exercise and avoid smoking, Feldman said.

Findings presented at scientific meetings should be considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Read more:

Spider venom to treat impotence?
Failing erections may indicate heart problems
Obese boys become impotent men

Image: Shy man covering his crotch from Shutterstock


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Erectile Dysfunction Expert

Dr Kenny du Toit is a urologist practicing in Rondebosch, Cape Town. He is also consultant at Tygerberg hospital, where he is a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. He is a member of the South African Urological Association, Colleges of Medicine South Africa and Société Internationale d’Urologie. Board registered with both the HPCSA (Health professions council of South Africa) and GMC (General medical council UK). He has a keen interest in oncology, kidney stones and erectile dysfunction.

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