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Dr. Mohit Khera says numerous studies find that cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction are linked.

Men with erectile dysfunction may also have an increased risk for developing heart disease, said an expert at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

“There have been numerous studies demonstrating that cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction are linked,” said Dr. Mohit Khera, associate professor in the Scott Department of Urology at Baylor. “Fifteen percent of men who have had erectile dysfunction will develop some form of cardiovascular adverse event within the next seven years. It may be the first sign or predictor for problems that will occur years from now.” 

Khera said there are similarities between the blood flow in the heart and the penis. However, blood flow problems show up in the penis sooner.

“Penile arteries are much smaller than coronary arteries and thus are much more sensitive to cholesterol, plaque formation and hypertension (high blood pressure), thus the penis may get less blood flow,” said Khera. “If your penile arteries are clogged, then your coronary arteries could be next.”

Men who have erectile dysfunction should be screened for heart disease, especially if they have other risk factors, Khera said.

“If a man has erectile dysfunction and has two or more cardiac risk factors, I refer him for a cardiac evaluation,” he said.

Cardiac risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • High levels of circulating fat in the blood stream
  • High cholesterol

“The endothelium or inner lining of blood vessels regulates how the heart relaxes and contracts. When there is a problem with this, you have bad blood flow and develop heart disease,” said Khera. “We now know that endothelial malfunction in the penis causes erectile dysfunction.”

“One of seven men who develop erectile dysfunction today will develop cardiovascular disease in the coming years,” said Khera. “If we could identify these patients, we could save lives.”