Although it is well accepted that cardiovascular disease is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction, it has not been clear whether erectile dysfunction is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the researchers noted.
"Erectile dysfunction significantly increased the risk of cardiovascular disease, and the increase was probably independent of conventional risk factors," said lead researcher Dr Li-Qiang Qin, from the department of nutrition and food hygiene in the School of Public Health at Soochow University in Suzhou.
As such, "erectile dysfunction may not only contribute to cardiovascular risk prediction, but also serve as a potential target for cardiovascular disease prevention," Qin said.
The report was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
ED and heart risks
For the study, Qin's team culled data on the relationship between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease from 12 studies published between 2005 and 2011 that included a total of 36,744 people and an average follow-up of 4 to 16.2 years. This process, called a meta-analysis, tries to pool data from several sources to tease out a pattern that might not be obvious in a single study.
The researchers found a significant association between erectile dysfunction and the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke and death.
In fact, men with erectile dysfunction had a 48% increased risk for cardiovascular disease, a 46% increased risk for heart disease, a 35% increased risk for stroke and a 19% increased risk of dying of any cause, compared to men without the condition.
Even after taking risk factors such as age, weight , blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and smoking into account, there was still a 54% increased risk for cardiovascular disease associated with erectile dysfunction alone. The reasons for this association are unclear, the researchers noted.
However, based on these findings, Qin's group now thinks erectile dysfunction is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and not just an early marker of the condition.
Dr Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles,said cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction share many common risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, smoking, hypertension and high cholesterol.
"A number of prior individual studies have shown that men with erectile dysfunction are at increased risk for fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events," Fonarow said. "Men with erectile dysfunction should be aware of this significant increase in cardiovascular risk and take proactive steps to adopt a healthy lifestyle and better control their cardiovascular risk factors."
For more information on erectile dysfunction, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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