Medical researchers have revealed a link between the penis and the heart, and despite the goldmine of bad jokes and puns we could make about this, we will try our hardest to soldier through.
Writing in the journal Circulation, senior investigator Michael Blaha and his fellow cardiologist co-authors have shared new evidence suggesting that developing erectile dysfunction (ED) – the inability to maintain or achieve an erection for sexual activity – is predictive of possibly life-threatening cardiovascular disease.
A wealth of studies has already proven that both conditions may develop via similar physiological processes that occur in individuals with hypertension, obesity, diabetes mellitus, smoking, and high blood cholesterol. Yet until now, the presence of erectile dysfunction was not directly associated with wider health implications.
"Our results reveal that erectile dysfunction is, in and of itself, a potent predictor of cardiovascular risk," Dr Blaha, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said in a statement. He recommends that doctors should begin performing targeted cardiovascular screenings in male patients who report ED, and that the predisposing factors for heart attack and stroke (mentioned above) should be managed far more aggressively in this group than is the current standard.
According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Public Health, mild to moderate ED affects 10 percent of men per decade of life; for example, 50 percent of men have it by age 50. Complete ED is seen in about 5 percent of males age 40, increasing to around 15 percent by age 70. It is important to note, however, that although the condition can be caused by circulatory system abnormalities and inflammation, some cases are the result of depression or anxiety, hormonal changes, injuries, or medication side effects.
Blaha’s team pulled their data from a large study that tracked the cardiovascular health of more than 6,000 racially diverse men and women across the US over several years. Their analysis included 1,757 men ranging from 59 to 78 years of age at the beginning of a four-year follow-up.
After adjusting the statistical model for the other risk factors, plus depression and use of various medications, the authors found that subjects with ED were nearly twice as likely to suffer a cardiovascular event – a heart attack, cardiac arrest, or stroke – compared with those without erectile issues.
Though he concedes that more studies are needed to examine risk over a longer time period, Blaha advises that men who are experiencing problems getting it up should prioritize getting themselves to the cardiologist.
"It is incredible how many men avoid the doctor and ignore early signs of cardiovascular disease, but present for the first time with a chief complaint of ED. This is a wonderful opportunity to identify otherwise undetected high-risk cases."