Erectile dysfunction is linked to a ‘59% higher risk of heart disease’4 min read


Erectile dysfunction is linked to a ‘59% higher risk of heart disease’: Scientists warn impotence is the first sign of poor blood flow in the body

  • Chinese scientists looked at 25 studies with a total of more than 154,000 men
  • Impotence also raised the risk of stroke by 34% and premature death by 33%
  • Experts urges impotent men to ‘pay aggressive attention to heart disease’

Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) may be more at risk of heart disease, stroke or a premature death, research suggests.

Chinese scientists looked at 25 studies with a total of more than 154,000 men.

They found those who struggled get or stay erect were 59 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than those who had no problem becoming aroused.

Impotence also raised the men’s risk of a stroke by 34 per cent and premature death by 33 per cent, the study found.

Failure to become erect may be the first sign of poor blood flow in the body, the scientists warn. 

The research was carried out by The Second Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University.

ED is the ‘inability to reach or maintain an erection that is satisfactory for sex’, the team wrote in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

It affects more than 100 million men globally to some extent, which is set to rise to 300 million by 2025. 

And heart disease is responsible for a quarter of all deaths in the UK and US, statistics show. 

Although the two conditions have previously been linked, the extent of their connection was unclear.

To learn more, the scientists, led by Dr Wenxiong Zhang, analysed 25 studies on the subject with a total of 154,794 participants.

Results revealed a significant link between ED and heart disease, stroke and an early death from any cause.

These risks were greatest among the impotent men who were over 55, diabetic or smoked. 


Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, is when a man is unable to get or maintain an erection.

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It is more common in the over-40s but affects men of all ages.

Failure to stay erect is usually due to tiredness, stress, anxiety or alcohol, and is not a cause for concern.

However, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, side effects of medication, or hormonal issues.

Lifestyle factors than can affect the condition include obesity, smoking, cycling too much, drinking too much, and stress. 

Source: NHS Choices 

Perhaps surprisingly, the men who had ED for less than seven years were more at risk than those who had struggled with the condition for longer. It is unclear why this occurred. 

Heart disease and ED are often triggered by the build up of plaque in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis.

Due to the penis’ arteries being narrower than the heart’s, ED may become an issue before signs of cardiovascular disease are apparent, the researchers wrote.  

Dr Ron Blankstein, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told CNN: ‘The penile artery that delivers blood flow to the penis is a much smaller diameter, and it’s the smaller blood vessels which show the first signs of disease.’

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‘If erectile dysfunction is a repeated pattern, a man really needs to pay aggressive attention to potentially having heart disease.’ 

ED also ‘strongly correlates’ with depression, which can be a risk factor for heart disease. 

Left untreated, ‘evolved depression’ may be a ‘catalyst’ for poor health health. Patients with mental health problems may also be reluctant to seek help for their ED, the researchers note.   

The scientists urge both urologists and cardiologists to screen a male patient’s sexual health during routine check-ups to predict their risk. 

In order to combat ED and heart disease, Dr Blankstein urges smokers to quit, calling the habit the ‘single most important modifiable risk factor’.

He also encourages impotent men to eat well, exercise and lose weight if necessary.

‘I think the important message is at the very least, you need to pay attention to your underlying risk factors for heart disease, smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol,’ Dr Blankstein said.