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Men with erectile dysfunction may face an increased risk of premature death, study says

(CNN) – Erectile dysfunction is not just a problem in the bedroom. It could also be a sign of the risk of heart disease and premature death in men.

And this is true, according to a new study, regardless of a man’s testosterone levels.

Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to have or maintain an erection long enough to have sex, and it is a common condition that affects nearly 30 million American men, according to the Harvard Medical School.

It occurs more frequently in older men and is often attributed to low levels of testosterone, the main sex hormone that is key in the development of male reproductive tissues and for the growth of muscle, bone mass, and body hair. .

Low testosterone levels have previously been linked to a risk of premature death among older men, compared to those with normal levels of the hormone, but results from previous research have been inconsistent, said Dr. Leen Antonio, a medical scientist at Leuven University Hospitals, Belgium, and principal investigator of the new study examining the relationship between hormone levels and sexual function in men.

What Antonio’s team discovered indicates that a man’s testosterone levels may not be as great a warning sign as having erectile dysfunction.

“Because vascular disease and low testosterone levels can influence erectile function, sexual symptoms may be an early sign of increased cardiovascular risk and mortality,” said Antonio. The investigation of his team was published this Tuesday in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

Hormonal levels and impotence

The researchers examined data from nearly 2,000 men between the ages of 40 and 79 who participated in the “European Study on Male Aging,” a large project that investigated, between 2003 and 2005, age-related hormonal changes and health outcomes. in older men.

Participants’ sexual symptoms, including erectile dysfunction, morning erections, and libido, were measured using a questionnaire, and their sex hormones were measured using mass spectrometry, a method that reveals to the investigator the presence and concentration level of a hormone.

During a 12-year follow-up period, approximately 25% of the men died. Antonio’s research team found that, of the men who died, participants with normal testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction had a 51% higher risk of death than those without those symptoms.

Additionally, men with low total testosterone levels and sexual symptoms had a higher risk of premature death than those with normal testosterone levels and without sexual symptoms.

The results indicated that, overall, people with sexual symptoms, including erectile dysfunction and poor morning erections, had an increased risk of premature death. Low libido was not associated with an increased risk of premature death.

Prevention and management of erectile dysfunction

In addition to low testosterone levels, there are several potential causes of erectile dysfunction, primarily from clogged arteries or cardiovascular disease, that can impede the blood flow necessary to produce an erection.

That’s why erectile dysfunction, regardless of testosterone levels, may indicate a risk of heart disease and premature death: the blood vessels that supply blood for an erection are smaller than the coronary arteries, Antonio said.

“This means that in men with atherosclerosis [acumulación de placa en las arterias que causa la obstrucción del flujo sanguíneo], the blood flow in the vessels of the penis is compromised before in the coronary arteries, “he added.

Other possible causes of erectile dysfunction include certain medications, stress and anxiety, sleep disorders, smoking, alcohol consumption, nerve problems from prostate surgery, illness, and accidents. Psychological factors such as stress, relationship problems, and depression can also contribute.

Erectile dysfunction can be prevented and treated by practicing a healthy lifestyle and, if necessary, treating risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity, Antonio said.

“These things are also beneficial in improving general health and reducing the risk of mortality in men suffering from sexual dysfunction,” said Antonio. “Men who experience sexual symptoms should be aware that these could be an early warning sign of poor or worsening health, as well as an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

“It is important to discuss sexual symptoms with your doctors, to identify and treat other cardiovascular risk factors or apparent cardiovascular disease,” he added.