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Early-Stage Vascular Disease tied to Erectile Dysfunction, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 18, 2014 01:31 PM EST

Men who have detectable early-stage vascular disease, known as asymptomatic subclinical vascular disease, have a higher risk of suffering from erectile dysfunction, a new study reported.

"Erectile function can be a window into men's cardiovascular and overall health," David I. Feldman, B.S., lead author and research assistant at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD, commented according to the press release.

He added, "Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease commonly coexist. We looked at which measurement of early vascular disease was the best predictor for erectile dysfunction. We also looked at whether those men with multiple abnormalities, such as increased plaque in addition to arterial stiffness and dysfunction, were more likely to also suffer from erectile dysfunction."

For this study, the researchers examined 1,862 men who did not have a history of heart disease. They focused on the link between atherosclerotic plaque development, arterial stiffness and dysfunction, and erectile dysfunction. Calcified plaque in the coronary arteries was measured using the Agatston score.

The team discovered that men with scores higher than 100 Agatson units had a 43 percent greater risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction when compared to men who had normal scores. Men who suffered from erectile dysfunction down the line were two times more likely than men who did not have erectile dysfunction to have high coronary artery calcium scores at the beginning of the study.

In addition, the team found that other measures of early vascular disease and abnormalities were linked to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction. For example, men with atherosclerosis, and arterial stiffness and dysfunction had a 53 percent greater risk of erectile dysfunction.

"Current guidelines recommend exercise stress testing and an ankle-brachial index test for risk assessment in patients with erectile dysfunction," Feldman said. "Our results suggest a more powerful indicator is direct measurement of coronary plaque through the use of a coronary artery calcium test."

The researchers recommend at-risk men to adopt a heart-healthy diet, exercise frequently and avoid smoking.

The study was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.

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