ED: Can It Signal Heart Disease?

Most men are traumatized when they first experience an erectile disorder (ED). Some try harder, sometimes with different partners, in an attempt to escape the inevitable conclusion that it is their problem, and it is not going away. Others adopt a catastrophic stance, behaving as though "life as I know it is over." Still others assume that it is simply the result of aging, a natural process, and ask their doctor to prescribe Viagra to take care of the problem. Very few men realize that ED can be a sign of a more pervasive and dangerous problem: cardiovascular disease.

Erection of the penis is primarily a vascular event. A disruption to the coronary artery system brought on by disease will often affect a man's erectile functioning. Earlier this year, a team of Austrian researchers reported a clear relationship between high blood levels of homocysteine, a marker for heart disease, and the presence of erectile dysfunction (ED).

A study by investigators in Italy has noted that the more severe the coronary artery disease, the higher the probability that the patient also has ED. Patients with a history of heart attack and ED were six times more likely to have multiple blocked arteries than those without this pattern.

Ultimately, ED may turn out to be a marker for coronary artery disease. If you have ED and suspect you may also have cardiovascular disease, talk to your doctor so you can be evaluated.