By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – An international team of researchers led by physicians at The Miriam Hospital are recommending early screening of erectile dysfunction (ED) symptoms of younger and middle-aged men because it may be an early warning sign of heart disease.
In an article appearing in the July issue of the American Heart Journal, the researchers encourage physicians to inquire about ED symptoms in men older than 30 who have cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, obesity or family history, and in all men with type 2 diabetes.
As many as 30 million American men suffer from ED, or the inability to maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. ED and cardiovascular disease share a common cause: narrowing of the arteries, resulting in reduced or obstructed blood flow to the organs. They also share similar risk factors, including smoking, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
“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 author 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 30 with some of the traditional heart disease risk factors, like smoking or a family history,” Miner said.