Physicians should inquire about erectile dysfunction in some men as young as in their 30s because it can be a red flag for heart disease, an international panel of men’s health experts has advised.
The recommendation, issued by a panel assembled by physicians at The Miriam Hospital in Rhode Island, is based on studies that show younger and middle-aged men with ED and other cardiovascular risk factors – such as smoking, obesity, family history, and type 2 diabetes – are at far greater risk of heart disease.
Although some physicians consider ED a natural part of "old age" in men, the Miriam Hospital team said it's time to expand ED symptom screening to include younger and middle-aged men. The new recommendations, detailed in the American Heart Journal, encourage physicians to inquire about ED symptoms in men over the age of 30 who have other cardiovascular risk factors.SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.
"Erectile dysfunction represents an important first step toward heart disease detection and reduction, yet many health care providers and patients assume it's just a sign of old age, so it may not be something that comes up during an annual physical with a younger man who doesn't fit the ED 'stereotype,’ ” said lead researcher Dr. Martin Miner, chief of family medicine and co-director of the Men's Health Center at The Miriam Hospital.
"That's why we urge physicians to discuss sexual function with the majority of their male patients – including diabetic men of all ages and men over the age of thirty with some of the traditional heart disease risk factors, like smoking or a family history."
Up to 30 million American men suffer from ED, the researchers noted. ED and cardiovascular disease are both caused by narrowing of the arteries, resulting in reduced or obstructed blood flow. They also share similar risk factors, including smoking, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Symptoms of conditions that can narrow the arteries, such as arteriosclerosis, may first appear in the form of erection problems.
The new recommendations are based on an analysis by Miner and colleagues of 40 studies that suggest ED is a significant predictor for cardiovascular disease in men under the age of 60 and men with diabetes.
"There may be a 'window of curability' in which we can intervene early and stop the progression of heart disease," said Miner. "Also, it may be possible to someday use erectile function as a measurement to tell us if preventive interventions for heart disease are working." SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.