Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Sexual dysfunction and heart disease in women

Q. My wife and I both enjoy the Harvard Men's Health Watch newsletter. We've read that erectile dysfunction can be a warning for future heart disease in men. I'm okay in that department, but my wife is experiencing a drop in her sex drive. She'll be seeing her gynecologist for help, but we wonder if she should see a cardiologist, too.

A. Men and women have many more similarities than differences. That's why we can learn from each other's newsletters. But in the case of sexual dysfunction and heart disease, you and your wife will be glad to know that the differences predominate.

Heart disease and erectile dysfunction are linked because both can develop from damage to arteries. As a result, they share common risk factors, including high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal blood cholesterol levels, smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise.

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