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  YourHealth > Sexual Health  << Previous|Next >>
 

Smoking increases impotence risk

Many of the same things that are bad for the heart are bad for the sex life too, according to a study of impotence among middle-aged men.

In a study that followed 513 men for up to 10 years, those whose lifestyles put them at risk for heart disease were also at higher risk for erectile dysfunction (ED). Men who smoked, were overweight, had high blood pressure, or ate fatty diets were more likely to develop impotence. Dr. Henry A. Feldman and his colleagues at New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Massachusetts, report the results in the current issue of Preventive Medicine.

"The well-known things that are bad for your heart are bad for sexual function too," Feldman told Reuters Health.

Among the 93 men who were impotent by the study's end, smoking -- both active and passive (exposure to tobacco smoke) -- was a key risk factor. Men who currently smoked cigarettes or cigars, and those exposed to passive cigarette smoke at home and work, had twice the rate of impotence of other men.

"If you needed another reason to quit smoking," said Feldman, "this is it."

Men with high blood pressure, already an established ED risk factor, were about 80% more likely to develop impotence. The risk was twice as high among overweight men, compared with those of normal weight; impotence risk also climbed slightly as cholesterol intake increased.

Impotence usually has a physical underlying cause, including any disease that may impair blood flow to the penis. Because coronary artery disease arises from hardening and narrowing in the vessels that feed the heart, it is logical that heart disease and impotence would share risk factors, according to Feldman. While cigarette smoking has already been implicated in impotence, this study, he said, is apparently the first to link ED to cigars and passive exposure to cigarette smoke.

For healthy men, the implications of this study "cut both ways," according to Feldman. Heart-friendly lifestyle changes, he noted, might do double-duty by warding off impotence; and impotence may signal that "coronary heart disease is in store down the line."


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