ERECTION problems could be the ‘‘canary in the trousers’’ of men that signals they have a heart problem.
The results of a major health study that included 15,000 Hunter men has found that erectile dysfunction could be a red flag for undiagnosed heart problems.
The research was part of the 45 and Up study and published yesterday in the international journal PLOS Medicine.
It found that men with erectile dysfunction had a higher risk of hospital admission for heart disease, even if they had no history of heart problems.
They were also at greater risk of premature death from any cause.
This is the first study to show the more severe a man’s erection problem the higher his risk of dying early or being treated for heart disease.
The Sax Institute’s 45 and Up study is a statewide long-term study of ageing.
It includes 30,000 Hunter residents whose health data has been collected using surveys and their medical records.
Lead author Professor Emily Banks from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health said the two seemingly disparate health conditions were related because of their links to circulation.
‘‘The penis has the smallest arteries, more so than heart or brain, it may be more sensitive to problems,’’ she said.
‘‘This is a signal there might be something wrong.’’
Professor Banks said they hoped it was extra motivation for men to take action and get a health check if they had either condition.
‘‘It’s a marker of underlying problems,’’ she said.
Erection problems are very common. About one in five men aged 40 and over report moderate or severe erectile dysfunction.
‘‘There had already been some clues erectile dysfunction might be linked to heart disease,’’ Professor Banks said.
‘‘We were really able to take what is known one step further.’’
There are more than 250,000 people in the 45 and Up study.