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Impotence may signal future heart disease

Impotence may serve as an early warning of heart disease down the road, even in men without traditional risk factors for heart trouble.

Impotence may signal future heart disease

Impotence may serve as an early warning of heart disease down the road, even in men without traditional risk factors for heart trouble. Researchers from the University of Modena, Italy, studied 70 men with Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and 73 men who did not have the condition but were similar to the ED group as far as age, smoking habits, blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Overall, it was found that men with ED were more than twice as likely as their peers to show calcium deposits in the coronary arteries. Moreover, 41 percent had a high calcium score, versus 19 percent of men in the comparison group. ED patients also showed poorer blood vessel function in the arm's brachial artery - another potential indicator of future heart disease. Calcium deposits, along with fat and other substances, are part of the artery-clogging plaque that accumulate in atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of coronary arteries that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Computed tomography (CT), a specialised X-ray technique, can detect these calcium deposits, and it is sometimes used to screen for heart disease before symptoms are apparent. It's possible that smaller blood vessels, including those that supply the penis, are more sensitive to early artery disease than are the larger vessels of the heart. CT scans revealed that arterial calcium deposits were more common and more extensive in men with ED - even though traditional heart risk factors, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, were not. These data suggest that ED may be the earliest manifestation of a generalised vascular disease and that these patients may be at an increased risk of later developing coronary artery disease. ED is known to involve impaired blood flow to the penis, and men with conditions in which blood circulation is impaired, such as atherosclerosis and diabetes, are at increased risk of sexual dysfunction. But for some men, impotence may be just the tip of the iceberg with regard to their cardiovascular health. The researchers found an increased prevalence of subclinical atherosclerosis among patients with ED, independently of traditional risk factors.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology,
October 2005
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