Men at-risk of heart disease are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction, new research reveals.
Researchers found that all men who are at a high risk of heart disease report sexual dysfunction.
In contrast, only 15 per cent of men at a low risk of heart disease suffer from erectile complaints.
Scientists suggest that impaired blood flow may explain the link between the two conditions.
Cycling to work slashes the risk of heart problems, according to research released in April.
Adults who commute by bike are 46 per cent less susceptible to heart disease.
Their risk of dying prematurely from any cause is 41 per cent lower – despite the dangers of cycling on roads.
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The study of a quarter of a million adults showed that biking even short distances was far more beneficial than walking or using public transport.
Glasgow scientists behind the findings are calling for a ‘step change’ in policy – including building more cycle lanes – to prevent long-term illnesses.
Only about 7 per cent of British adults regularly cycle to work and just 4 per cent do it every day.
Many are put off by heavy traffic, the weather or not being able to shower at the office.
The researchers from Northwestern University focused on seven risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar, being overweight or obese, insufficient physical activity, poor diet and smoking.
At the start of the study, the researchers scored the participants on each of the seven risk factors, awarding zero points for the worst outcome, one point for intermediate or moderate risk and two points for the healthiest outcome.
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The researchers then sorted the participants into three groups from the lowest to highest risk for heart disease.
By the end of the study, 526 men, or 46 per cent, had erectile dysfunction.
This occurred in all of the men with the highest heart disease risk compared to just 15 percent with the lowest risk.
The men who had erectile dysfunction by the end of the study were also more likely to have poor blood flow through their arteries at the start of the study.
One theory is that heart disease leads to poor blood vessel function.
This disrupts blood flow to the penis, resulting in erectile dysfunction.
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Yet, the researchers only measured erectile function once, making it impossible to assess how changes in heart disease risk factors over time might influence sexual function.
Study author Dr Abbi Lane-Cordova, said: ‘We knew that erectile dysfunction was considered an early indicator of vascular disease that might occur before heart disease was diagnosed by a doctor.
‘This study showed that men who were less likely to have risk factors for heart disease and had healthier behaviors (non-smoking, physically active, healthier diet) were also less likely to have erectile dysfunction later in life.
‘Men may avoid erectile dysfunction the same way they may avoid heart disease.’
The research was published in the American Journal of Hypertension.