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Is erectile dysfunction a warning sign for stroke or heart attack?

Could erectile dysfunction be a warning sign that a man might be at risk for heart attack or stroke? David Kandzari, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Piedmont Hospital, shares more about the latest findings.

New research has shown that many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (heart attack and strokes) are the same as the risk factors for erectile dysfunction. “These recent studies contribute to an emerging body of evidence that suggests there is a vascular cause for erectile dysfunction in eight out of 10 men,” says David Kandzari, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Piedmont Hospital. “Erectile dysfunction pre-dates the onset of symptomatic heart disease or stroke by about three to five years for many men,” he says.

An emerging, powerful risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke

“It is no surprise whatsoever that the same interventions to prevent cardiovascular disease and stroke would be the same to help erectile dysfunction symptoms,” says Dr. Kandzari. “In particular, lifestyle modifications through exercise and diet, and when appropriate, drug therapy for the treatment of high blood pressure or cholesterol, improved erectile dysfunction symptoms across the board for all individuals.

“What was also striking in this study was that for individuals who had the most severe forms of erectile dysfunction and who were not responsive to a class of medicines we call PDE5 inhibitors (such as LEVITRA, Cialis and Viagra), by modifying their diet and lifestyle and perhaps taking drug therapy for risk factors actually improved their erectile dysfunction symptoms as well,” he says. Many individuals who have symptoms of erectile dysfunction don’t want to take blood pressure-lowering medicines because they believe it will contribute to erectile dysfunction symptoms.

But in fact, the data proves the opposite, says Dr. Kandzari. “We are consistently seeing studies that show that taking these medications is associated with an improvement in erectile dysfunction symptoms,” he says.

His key message for men with erectile dysfunction and their partners? “When the symptoms of erectile dysfunction occur early, it is essential that a man open up this discussion with his physician to begin that process of risk factor evaluation and when appropriate, to treat it through either lifestyle modifications or with medical therapy.”

If you begin to exhibit the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, be sure to talk with your doctor as soon as possible. He or she will determine if you have risk factors for other serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, and determine your best treatment plan.

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