PURPOSE: We established erectile dysfunction as an often neglected but valuable marker of cardiovascular risk, particularly in younger men and men with diabetes. We also reviewed evidence that lifestyle change, combined with informed prescribing of pharmacotherapies used to mitigate cardiovascular risk, can improve overall vascular health and sexual functioning in men with erectile dysfunction.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed a PubMed® search for articles and guidelines pertinent to relationships between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular and all cause mortality, and pharmacotherapies for dyslipidemia and hypertension. The clinical guidance presented incorporates the current literature and the expertise of the multispecialty investigator group.
RESULTS: Numerous cardiovascular risk assessment tools exist but risk stratification remains challenging, particularly in patients at low or intermediate short-term risk. Erectile dysfunction has a predictive value for cardiovascular events that is comparable to or better than that of traditional risk factors. Interventional studies support lifestyle changes as a means of improving overall vascular health as well as sexual functioning. Statins, diuretics, β-blockers and renin-angiotensin system modifiers may positively or negatively affect erectile function. Furthermore, the phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors used to treat erectile dysfunction may have systemic vascular benefits.
CONCLUSIONS: Erectile dysfunction treatment should be considered secondary to decreasing cardiovascular risk. However, informed prescribing may prevent worsening sexual function in men receiving pharmacotherapy for dyslipidemia and hypertension. As the first point of medical contact for men with erectile dysfunction symptoms, the primary care physician or urologist has a unique opportunity to identify those who require early intervention to prevent cardiovascular disease.
BACKGROUND: The association between subclinical cardiovascular disease and subsequent development of erectile dysfunction (ED) remains poorly described.
HYPOTHESIS: Among multiple subclinical atherosclerosis and vascular dysfunction measurements, coronary artery calcium (CAC) score best predicts ED.
METHODS: After excluding participants taking ED medications at baseline, we studied 1862 men age 45 to 84 years free of known cardiovascular disease from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) with comprehensive baseline subclinical vascular disease phenotyping and ED status assessed at MESA visit 5 (9.4 ± 0.5 years after baseline) using a standardized question on ED symptoms. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the associations between baseline measures of vascular disease (atherosclerosis domain: CAC, carotid intima-media thickness, carotid plaque, ankle-brachial index; vascular stiffness/function domain: aortic stiffness, carotid stiffness, brachial flow-mediated dilation) and ED symptoms at follow-up.
RESULTS: Mean baseline age was 59.5 ± 9 years, and 839 participants (45%) reported ED symptoms at follow-up. Compared with symptom-free individuals, participants with ED had higher baseline prevalence of CAC score >100 (36.4% vs 17.2%), carotid intima-media thickness Z score >75th percentile (35.3% vs 16.6%), carotid plaque score ≥2 (39% vs 21.1%), carotid distensibility 100 (odds ratio: 1.43, 95% confidence interval: 1.09-1.88) and carotid plaque score ≥2 (odds ratio: 1.33, 95% confidence interval: 1.02-1.73) were significantly associated with ED.
CONCLUSIONS: Subclinical vascular disease is common in men who later self-report ED. Early detection of subclinical atherosclerosis, particularly advanced CAC and carotid plaque, may provide opportunities for predicting the onset of subsequent vascular ED.
Vascular erectile dysfunction is a powerful marker of increased cardiovascular risk. However, current guidelines lack specific recommendations on the role that the evaluation of vascular erectile dysfunction should play in cardiovascular risk assessment, as well on the risk stratification strategy that men with vascular erectile dysfunction should undergo. In the last 3 years, erectile dysfunction experts have made a call for more specific guidance and have proposed the selective use of several prognostic tests for further cardiovascular risk assessment in these patients. Among them, stress testing has been prioritized, whereas other tests are considered second-line tools. In this review, we provide additional perspective from the viewpoint of the preventive cardiologist. We discuss the limitations of current risk scores and the potential interplay between erectile dysfunction assessment and the use of personalized prognostic tools, such as the coronary artery calcium score, in the cardiovascular risk stratification and management of men with vascular erectile dysfunction. Finally, we present an algorithm for primary care physicians, urologists, and cardiologists to aid clinical decision-making.
Identification of vasculogenic erectile dysfunction (ED) should be used to focus preventive efforts on reducing the risk of future cardiovascular events. For younger men 40 to 60 years old believed to have predominantly vasculogenic ED, we recommend an algorithm for further assessment of cardiovascular disease modified from the 2013 American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA) risk assessment guidelines. We propose that all men with confirmed vasculogenic ED and no overt cardiovascular disease symptoms undergo noninvasive evaluation using a coronary artery calcium (CAC) score. For men with low to intermediate risk (atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) risk score 0–10 %), CAC score can be used to guide decisions regarding initiation of therapies, and in patients with high CVD risk, after referral to a cardiologist for a full evaluation, CAC can be used to guide intensity of therapies. We recommend that men with ED be evaluated using this modified risk assessment to incorporate factors otherwise excluded from the ACC/AHA calculator. © 2015, Springer Science+Business Media New York.
An association between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease has long been recognized, and studies suggest that erectile dysfunction is an independent marker of cardiovascular disease risk. Therefore, assessment and management of erectile dysfunction may help identify and reduce the risk of future cardiovascular events, particularly in younger men. The initial erectile dysfunction evaluation should distinguish between predominantly vasculogenic erectile dysfunction and erectile dysfunction of other etiologies. For men believed to have predominantly vasculogenic erectile dysfunction, we recommend that initial cardiovascular risk stratification be based on the Framingham Risk Score. Management of men with erectile dysfunction who are at low risk for cardiovascular disease should focus on risk-factor control; men at high risk, including those with cardiovascular symptoms, should be referred to a cardiologist. Intermediate-risk men should undergo noninvasive evaluation for subclinical atherosclerosis. A growing body of evidence supports the use of emerging prognostic markers to further understand cardiovascular risk in men with erectile dysfunction, but few markers have been prospectively evaluated in this population. In conclusion, we support cardiovascular risk stratification and risk-factor management in all men with vasculogenic erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) share risk factors and frequently coexist, with endothelial dysfunction believed to be the pathophysiologic link. ED is common, affecting more than 70% of men with known CVD. In addition, clinical studies have demonstrated that ED in men with no known CVD often precedes a CVD event by 2-5 years. ED severity has been correlated with increasing plaque burden in patients with coronary artery disease. ED is an independent marker of increased CVD risk including all-cause and especially CVD mortality, particularly in men aged 30-60 years. Thus, ED identifies a window of opportunity for CVD risk mitigation. We recommend that a thorough history, physical exam (including visceral adiposity), assessment of ED severity and duration and evaluation including fasting plasma glucose, lipids, resting electrocardiogram, family history, lifestyle factors, serum creatinine (estimated glomerular filtration rate) and albumin:creatinine ratio, and determination of the presence or absence of the metabolic syndrome be performed to characterise cardiovascular risk in all men with ED. Assessment of testosterone levels should also be considered and biomarkers may help to further quantify risk, even though their roles in development of CVD have not been firmly established. Finally, we recommend that a question about ED be included in assessment of CVD risk in all men and be added to CVD risk assessment guidelines.