Men who suffer erection issues should be screened for heart disease, say researchers who found the problem signals an increased risk of cardiovascular issues.
Illawarra participants have taken part in the world’s largest study to investigate the link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease.
The study found men with erectile dysfunction have a higher risk of hospital admission for heart disease, even if they have no history of heart problems.
They are also at greater risk of premature death from any cause.
The research, from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study and published today in international journal PLOS Medicine, is the first to show a direct link between how severe a man’s erection problem is and his risk of dying early or being treated in hospital for heart disease.
‘‘The risks of future heart disease and premature death increased steadily with severity of erectile dysfunction, both in men with and without a history of cardiovascular disease,’’ lead author and 45 and Up Study scientific director Emily Banks said.
‘‘Rather than causing heart disease, erectile dysfunction is more likely to be a symptom or signal of underlying ‘silent’ heart disease and could in future become a useful marker to help doctors predict the risk of a cardiovascular problem,’’ she said.
Heart Foundation cardiovascular health director Rob Grenfell said the results were nationally significant and demonstrated why governments should invest in large health studies such as the 45 and Up Study - in which there were 22,273 Illawarra participants.
‘‘These results tell us that every man who is suffering from any degree of erectile dysfunction should be seeking medical assistance as early as possible and also insisting on a heart health check by their GP at the same time,’’ Dr Grenfell said.
The researchers, from the Sax Institute, Australian National University, The University of Sydney, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and The George Institute for Global Health examined hospital and death records for 95,000 men from the 45 and Up Study - the largest ongoing study of healthy ageing in the Southern Hemisphere, with more than 250,000 people taking part.
The men gave information about health and lifestyle factors and were followed for a two to three-year period, recording 7855 hospital admissions related to cardiovascular disease and 2304 deaths.
‘‘We found men with erectile dysfunction were at higher risk of heart attack, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease and heart conduction problems,’’ Prof Banks said.