It's not that I don't think research into erectile dysfunction isn't important. Case in point is one of three studies, released today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, that found erectile dysfunction can be an important predictor of heart disease.
But I do sort of feel like researchers are having a hard time seeing the forest from the
penises trees. Every time I read a study about erectile dysfunction, or the inevitable media coverage of these studies, erections are talked about as if they aren’t just an important for a healthy sex life; they are seen as the be all and end all to a healthy sex life.
By all means…I love erections. But are they absolutely necessary for good sex, or for a healthy sex life.
For starters, I know that if I'm lucky to live long enough, I'll stop getting them the way I used to. And I sure hope that doesn't mean an end to my sex life. And beyond that, I have a sneaky suspicion that men's sexuality is, in fact, much more complicated than the mechanism of erections. And until we start looking somewhere other than that area slightly below the belt, we're giving male sexuality short shrift.
Back to the research….which is of some importance to men's health.
In this study (funded in part by Pfizer and carried out by researchers at the University of Chicago), erectile dysfunction (ED) was a stronger predictor of significant coronary heart disease than any of the traditional office-based risk factors, such as family history, cholesterol levels or blood pressure. ED was also associated with reduced exercise endurance and decreased ejection fraction -- a measure of the heart's pumping capacity. While early studies have suggested an association between erectile dysfunction and atherosclerotic vascular disease, this is the first study to link ED with abnormal results on cardiac stress testing, including evidence for severe coronary artery blockages and markers of a poor cardiovascular prognosis.
"This suggests we may need to ask male patients a new set of sensitive questions as part of the evaluation for heart disease," said cardiologist and study director Parker Ward, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and director of the cardiology clinic at the University of Chicago.
So this research comes with two pieces of good news. First, we may have another way of identifying risk for coronary heart disease. And second, if this filters down to med schools, we may have more doctors actually asking their patients about sexual health.