Studies link this common problem with vascular disease
FRIDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Few men may realize it, but if they're having problems achieving or sustaining erections, it may signal underlying heart trouble.
Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, affects more than 18 million American men, according to a recent study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
And now a growing body of research ties erectile dysfunction to vascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease.
"Erectile dysfunction is often caused by vascular disease," explained Dr. Ian Thompson, professor and chairman of the department of urology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. "A man could perceive decreased blood flow to the penis as being a less strong, a weaker erection, and that may actually be one of the first indicators of blood vessel disease."
One recent report found men with erectile dysfunction had poorer scores on exercise tests and other measures of coronary heart disease. They also had evidence of significant coronary artery blockages.
"Our study found that among men who were sent for a stress test by their doctor, the presence of erectile dysfunction was a potent predictor -- a strong risk factor -- for significant underlying heart disease," said lead researcher Dr. R. Parker Ward, an assistant professor of medicine and director of the cardiology clinic at the University of Chicago Hospitals.
"It was a stronger risk factor than some of the traditional risk factors we commonly ask questions about, things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol," he added.
Ward's study, published last year in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved men who had been referred to cardiologists for nuclear stress testing, a noninvasive way to determine the severity of coronary heart disease. But even among men without heart symp
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