What your ED could be telling you about your heart

Well, it's three years later, and here we go again.

Once again, the medical community is raising the wrong kind of alarm about erectile dysfunction. I debunked a medical claim back in 2005 that said erectile dysfunction (the current euphemism for which is "ED") was a sign of circulatory problems and could be an early indicator of heart disease.

Now there's new research claiming that diabetic men who suffer from ED could be twice as likely to develop deadly heart problems. The new study, published by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, says ED can actually predict cardiovascular problems like chest pain, heart attack, stroke, and even death in men with type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Peter C.Y. Tong of Chinese University in Hong Kong studied this issue in more than 2,300 Chinese men and says that "you must take action NOW [sic] to improve upon these modifiable risk factors, otherwise you will have a high chance of having a heart attack in the near future." Tong believes that type 2 diabetes sufferers with ED need to overcome the embarrassment of achieving or maintaining erections and tell their doctor right away so that they can undergo cardiac tests.

Maybebut I'm not so sure.

My opinion on this issue hasn't changed much. Circulation may play a role in ED, but it's hardly the most important factor. Testosterone is. If you get that under control, odds are that both your circulatory problems and your ED will get better. This new research says that erectile dysfunction and impotence are circulatory problems rather than hormonal conditions. What proof do they have of this? As you'll see, this is supposition and lousy science that's based on what I believe is a fairly small sample group.

Although Tong studied 2,300 diabetic men, only 616 had ED. And from that group, about half suffered from heart failure, heart attack, or stroke. This is compared to 74 of the 1,690 men in the group without ED.

I don't think it's too much to get excited over, and I believe it draws some wrong conclusions. After all, there were other factors at work here - family history of the patients in the study group and diet, too. These factors, as well as testosterone levels, are not taken into account by Tong.

In reality, heart disease and ED could both be caused by a decrease in testosterone levels. They taught us in medical school 40 years ago that testosterone caused all manner of problems, from high blood pressure to prostate cancer. We know that testosterone levels start falling off before middle age and by the age of 60 are often extremely low. Remember: the men in Tong's study were in their 50s! We can assume their testosterone levels were pretty low.

Keep in mind, too, that there's an added "what if" to this research that even Dr. Tong acknowledges: a low percentage of men with ED will actually report it to their doctor because of embarrassment. For all Tong knows, some of the men in his study who said they did not have ED were not being truthful - and that could have serious implications for his findings.

Many diabetes experts acknowledge that ED is just one of the many complications that can arise from diabetes. Personally, I believe that ED is treatable with testosterone and it shouldn't be used as a danger sign for cardiovascular issues with which it's not necessarily connected.