Erectile dysfunction (ED), along with obesity, peripheral vascular disease, and alcohol use raise a man’s risk for metabolic syndrome, Spanish researchers report.
In turn, these issues could eventually lead to cardiovascular problems.
Metabolic syndrome refers to a group of symptoms, such as obesity and high blood pressure, that increase a person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. According to the researchers, metabolic syndrome is “a major public health problem,” but underdiagnosed.
Their study investigated the factors involved with metabolic syndrome in men age 45 or older with testosterone deficiency.
The participants were 1,094 men in Spain. Their mean age was 61 years and their total testosterone levels were below 8 nmol/L.
The researchers found that almost 70% of the men had metabolic syndrome. Higher prevalence was found in men with severe or moderate ED, peripheral vascular disease, and obesity. Alcohol consumption also increased the risk of metabolic syndrome, but to a lesser degree.
Erectile function, as measured by the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), was found in 98% of the men, with most falling into the mild-to-moderate or moderate range. It’s possible that the high prevalence of metabolic syndrome could explain the high rate of ED, although the reverse could also be true. High rates of ED could be responsible for high rates of metabolic syndrome.
The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was associated with ED severity. For example, about 84% of the men with severe ED had metabolic syndrome. For the men with moderate ED, the prevalence rate was approximately 74%.
The relationship between testosterone levels and obesity/overweight was also considered. Eighty-six percent of the participants were classified as obese or overweight. The authors noted that while overweight and obesity could cause testosterone levels to fall, it is also possible that low testosterone could lead to obesity.
The authors noted that the connection between peripheral vascular disease and metabolic syndrome may be explained by cardiovascular risk factors.
They also explained that the study was limited: “Although the high prevalence of [metabolic syndrome] observed in our study among men with testosterone deficiency is no doubt clinically relevant, the dimension of this finding is difficult to assess due to the lack of a control group with eugonadal men.”
However, they also explained the value of their results.
“These findings highlight the opportunity to go beyond sexual health in assessing the cardiovascular health of patients consulting for sexual dysfunction,” the authors wrote.
The study was published online in July in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
García-Cruz, Eduardo, MD
“Metabolic Syndrome in Men with Low Testosterone Levels: Relationship with Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Comorbidities and with Erectile Dysfunction”
(Full-text. First published online: July 30, 2013)