New research shows that erectile dysfunction among men with diabetes can be an early warning sign for serious heart disease, including heart attack and death.
In one study, researchers found cholesterol-lowering medications could cut the risk of heart problems by about one-third—and suggested that Viagra and other compounds in the same drug family might offer similar protection.
The research, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), underscores the importance of encouraging men to report ED to their physicians and mental health provider, and of focusing treatment not only on overcoming sexual dysfunction but also on improving overall cardiovascular health.
“The development of erectile dysfunction should alert both patients and healthcare providers to the future risk of coronary heart disease,” said Peter Chun-Yip Tong, Ph.D.
“Other risk factors such as poor blood glucose control, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, smoking and obesity should be reviewed and addressed aggressively.”
Diabetes, erectile dysfunction and heart disease share an ominous link: damage to the blood vessels by high blood sugar levels. The same process that hinders the extra blood flow needed to maintain an erection can have even more serious consequences in the heart.
“The first event is probably endothelial dysfunction—when the smoothness and reactivity of the blood vessel are damaged,” said Dr. Tong. “This process encourages local inflammation on the inner surface of the blood vessels and the deposition of cholesterol, resulting in formation of clots and atherosclerosis. Therefore, there is a high risk of blockage of blood vessels in the heart, which can lead to a heart attack.”
Men typically show signs of ED more than three years before the onset of symptoms of coronary heart disease. In one study of diabetic men, symptoms of ED always preceded coronary symptoms.
Source: American College of Cardiology