An article, published in the American Heart Journal, encouraged physicians to inquire about erectile dysfunction symptoms in men age 30 and older, who have cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, obesity or family history, as well as all men with type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Martin Miner, chief of family medicine and co-director of the Men's Health Center at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., said as many as 30 million U.S. men suffer from erectile dysfunction, or the inability to maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse.
Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease share a common cause: narrowing of the arteries -- resulting in reduced or obstructed blood flow to the organs -- caused by common risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.
Penile arteries are just a fraction smaller than the arteries supplying blood to the heart, so arteriosclerosis is likely to present first in the form of erection problems.
"Erectile dysfunction represents an important first step toward heart disease detection and reduction, yet many healthcare providers and patients assume it's just a sign of old age, so it may not be something that comes up during an annual physical with a younger man who doesn't fit the erectile dysfunction 'stereotype,'" Miner, the article's lead author, said in a statement.