Most wives would say their husbands are notoriously bad about avoiding the doctor’s office. Erectile dysfunction (ED) might be the only problem that prompts some men to go to a physician. According to a new study, it could be their best chance at finding out they have underlying cardiovascular disease.
Lead author of the study, released in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D., professor and chairman of the department of urology at the U T Health Science Center.
“This analysis looked at two groups of men who were enrolled in the landmark Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial,” Dr. Thompson said. “One group of men reported having trouble with ED before they enrolled in the PCPT. The other group of men developed ED after enrollment. None of the men had ever suffered a heart attack, chest pain or stroke before enrolling in the trial. All of the men were on the placebo group of the trial.
“We demonstrated that the men with previous history of ED were statistically more likely to develop cardiovascular disease. The men who had no ED at enrollment but developed it during the trial also showed significantly greater risk of cardiovascular disease.”
The project looked at more than 8,000 men who were evaluated for ED and cardiovascular disease every three months during the seven-year prevention trial. Statistical analysis showed the group who developed ED after they enrolled in the study had a 25 percent increased risk of subsequent heart disease. When these men and the men with ED at the time they began the study were analyzed, together they had a 45 percent greater risk of heart disease.
“The whole point is, when a man goes to see a doctor and says he is having trouble with ED, this comment should make the doctor think about heart disease risk factors, just as if the man said that his father died of heart disease,” Dr. Thompson said. “The man should be screened for cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure, lipid levels, smoking and obesity. ED is an independent risk factor, in the same league with risk factors such as family history of heart disease.”
Cardiovascular disease remains the most frequent cause of death and disability in the U.S. An estimated 1.2 million heart attacks with 500,000 deaths will occur this year. The first symptom of cardiovascular disease generally is death, a heart attack or a stroke.