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Recognizing a Hidden Health Crisis for Men

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in American men today. Risk factors include family history, high cholesterol, obesity or even erectile dysfunction. Men with erectile dysfunction are twice as likely to be diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or have a heart attack at some point in their lives. With close to 20 million American men currently suffering from erectile dysfunction, American Heart Month this February provides an important opportunity to build understanding of the connection between a diagnosis of erectile dysfunction and eventual heart problems in men.

The first substantial study to show the connection between erectile dysfunction and heart disease was published in the March 2010 issue of Circulation: The Journal of the American Heart Association. Prior to the start of a five-year study of 1,519 men from 13 different countries taking two different cardiovascular drugs, patient interviews showed that 55 percent of the men participating in the trial had erectile dysfunction while also suffering from heart disease. The rationale is that atherosclerosis (thickening of the arterial walls) may begin in the smaller arteries of the penis several years prior to the onset of cardiovascular disease.

“For men with erectile dysfunction, who are already anxious about sexual performance, an increased risk of heart disease adds another level of concern,” said Jesse Mills, M.D., a urologist specializing in men’s sexual medicine at The Urology Center of Colorado (TUCC). “The good news is that most cases of erectile dysfunction are treatable and sometimes reversible with improved lifestyle modifications. Men are notorious for not seeing a physician on a regular basis. When sexual problems arise, they seek help for that. Then sexual dysfunction becomes a gateway for a discussion of health issues. Working closely with primary care physicians and cardiologists allows a urologist to screen men for heart disease, diabetes and other causes of sexual dysfunction and collaborate to deliver comprehensive care.”

Erectile dysfunction is both an emotional and physical problem for men. Through improving technology and early intervention, the disease can be treated successfully with therapy, medication or surgery. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction are at a higher risk of heart disease including those with diabetes, men under the age of 50, men with high cholesterol, smokers, men with high blood pressure, those with a family history of heart disease and men suffering from depression.

On Wednesday, February 15th, Dr. Mills and Vijay Subbarao, M.D., of Colorado Heart & Vascular, will host a free Healthy Heart presentation for patients with erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer and other urologic diseases. The presentation will focus on an individual’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, starting a heart healthy diet, exercise tips and proactive things to do to improve overall heart health.


For more information on risk factors, symptoms and treatment options for erectile dysfunction, please visit

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