Erectile Trouble May Foreshadow Heart Disease

Published Online: Monday, August 1, 2005

A number of studies conducted in Europe found strong connections between erectile dysfunction (ED) and heart disease. Researchers noted a relationship between ED and high blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid marker for heart disease. They found that, of 30 patients with ED, 20 also had high homocysteine levels. They suggest that adding folic acid, in combination with vitamins B6 and B12, to a patient's diet can help reduce homocysteine levels.

Another study attempted to find more relationships between heart disease and ED. In this study, of 162 men with heart disease, 46% also had ED. Among patients with chronic angina, 71% experienced ED for a little over a year before being diagnosed with heart disease.

Factors most predictive of ED include being older, prior heart attack, and a diagnosis of 2 or 3 blocked coronary arteries. Patients with prior heart attack plus ED were 6 times more likely to have several blocked coronary arteries, the researchers noted. They also noted that "erectile dysfunction is probably a marker for cardiovascular disease," and they urged patients with erectile problems to get checked early for possible cardiovascular disease, especially if the ED persists for 3 to 6 months.

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