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Erectile Dysfunction Today; Death Tomorrow?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
As I have previously discussed, while erectile dysfunction can have a detrimental impact on quality of life, it also appears to foreshadow future cardiovascular disease risk (i.e. heart attack). Indeed, it is reported that men who seek medical attention for cardiovascular disease symptoms often report that their penis stopped working long before they had any signs of heart problems.

A new study, published ahead of print in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, reports for the first time that the presence of erectile dysfunction independently predicts the future risk of death, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

In the study, a total of 1709 men aged 40-70 were assessed for erectile dysfunction at the beginning of the study and followed for an average of 15 years. At the end of the 15 year period, 403 of the men had died. The authors assessed the risk of mortality associated with having erectile dysfunction along with other known risk factors such as age, obesity, alcohol consumption, physical activity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and others.

After consideration of all these risk factors, men who had some degree of erectile difficulty had a 26% greater chance of dying from all causes and a 43% greater chance of dying from cardiovascular related causes.

Thus, it turns out that having erectile difficulties is as strong of a predictor of cardiovascular disease mortality as are other established risk factors such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

As the authors point out, these findings may be clinically relevant so far as in many cases sudden death is the first manifestation of cardiovascular disease. In other words, we now have a new way to screen for cardiovascular disease related mortality, and thus intervene and hopefully prevent early mortality, whereas previously the first indication of the disease may have been death.

It is important to recall that while oral erectile dysfunction medication (Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra) may help with the erection issue, these medications are unlikely to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. The medication simply provides symptomatic relief meanwhile the underlying vascular disease process is allowed to progress further.

On the other hand, healthy changes in lifestyle can both improve the function of your penis, as well as your overall health. Indeed, a recent study I published earlier this year in the same journal documented that high levels of physical activity and a slim waistline are associated with better maintenance of erectile function, regardless of the level of obesity, as measured by body mass index.

So if your penis stops working today, there is a good chance you may have greater problems on the horizon. Rather than popping the blue pill, get off the couch and improve your dietary habits – your penis, your heart, and even your partner will thank you for it.


Araujo, A., Travison, T., Ganz, P., Chiu, G., Kupelian, V., Rosen, R., Hall, S., & McKinlay, J. (2009). Erectile Dysfunction and Mortality Journal of Sexual Medicine DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01354.x

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2 Response to "Erectile Dysfunction Today; Death Tomorrow?"

  1. Anonymous Said,

    My future risk of deeathe is the same with ot without erectile dysfunction--100%.

    Posted on August 8, 2009 at 11:33 AM

  2. Peter Janiszewski, PhD (Cand.), MSc Said,

    Ha! Nicely put, Anonymous. I guess more accurately we are discussing EARLY mortality, rather than the inevitable mortality we all face.


    Posted on August 8, 2009 at 12:19 PM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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