Harvard Perspectives on Prostate Disease

A window into the heart

Erectile dysfunction may be an early sign of cardiovascular disease

Even if your doctor has given you a clean bill of health, beware: problems getting or keeping an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse may signal trouble, especially cardiovascular disease, down the road.

The connection between erectile dysfunction (ED) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) isn't as far-fetched as it may seem. Both follow the same age-related trajectory and become increasingly common from age 45 onward. They even share common causes. A study of 570 middle-aged California men begun in 1972 shows that smoking, overweight, and high cholesterol or high triglycerides — all risk factors for heart disease — were linked with erection difficulties 25 years later. That report appeared in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2004.

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