Heart Disease & Sexual Health
Erectile dysfunction (ED) has been a topic of great interest since the beginning of recorded history. References to erectile dysfunction appear in the Bible, characteristically in the form of punishments for transgressions against the Lord. In medieval times, erectile dysfunction was thought to be caused by the spell of witches.
Throughout history, cultures have sought remedies for ED. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks concocted a variety of potions hoping to cure the malady. Lacking modern science, all were doomed to failure. It was not until the past few decades when enhanced understanding of the physiology of male sexual function allowed development of breakthrough medicines to treat ED.
An all too common problem
Erectile dysfunction is very common, affecting to some degree more than half of all men age 40 years or older. The prevalence increases with age, with 70% of men older than 70 years experiencing ED. This condition is particularly important to our readers because ED is common in men with circulatory disorders and in those who take cardiovascular medications.
Risk factors the same for heart disease
Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease share many of the same risk factors. Two key studies analyzing this topic include the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (MMAS) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The risk factors include:
• Smoking. The MMAS found that smoking nearly doubled the risk of moderate or complete ED compared with nonsmokers. It also markedly increases the risk of ED in men with heart disease and other cardiac risk factors.
• Obesity and physical inactivity. Overweight men are more likely to have ED. The NHANES found that sedentary behavior was strongly correlated with ED. In the MMAS, men who were initially sedentary had lower rates of ED if they increased their level of activity.
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