When we think of erectile dysfunction, we think of infertility and impotence. However, there this sexual disorder actually goes deeper than just plain sex. Depression, sexual dysfunction and heart disease have common pathological mechanisms. At least in men. This is according to a study by researchers at the University of Florence, Italy.
Sexual dysfunction in men, mainly manifesting as erectile dysfunction can cause depressive symptoms. However, as we all know, negative emotions put a strain on the heart and much more so in this patient population when depression can be severe. by a team led by Dr Elisa Bandini (University of Florence, Italy).
According to study leader Dr. Elisa Bandini (to heartwire):
“In a large sample of men with erectile dysfunction, after controlling for other risk factors, we found that those with severe depression had increased risk of cardiovascular events. We know that depression and erectile dysfunction are both risk factors for heart disease, but this study shows that these risk factors are independent of each other.”
But what about obesity, which is also a risk factor for cardiovascular events and erectile dysfunction? The author checked whether obesity is the common denominator. However, although obesity does play a role, factoring it out doesn’t take away the fact that depression can lead to heart disease.
The results indicate that a healthy sexual life may also be linked to a healthy heart and a happy life. But does depression cause erectile dysfunction or is it the sexual dysfunction that brings about depressive symptoms? This is still something to be addressed in further research.
Dr. Bandini explains:
“Our results show that when evaluating patients for sexual dysfunction, doctors should think about general health as well. Erectile dysfunction may be the first disease or depression may be first disease, but we should look beyond these initial conditions to look at secondary consequences such as increased cardiovascular risk. If we treat depression and sexual dysfunction, we may be able to improve cardiovascular outcomes, too.”
Previous studies have identified common mechanisms between cardiovascular disorders and erectile function. German researchers have reported that both disorders are linked to endothelial dysfunction, endothelium being the inner lining of the blood vessels. And now depression also joins in. For such a multidimensional problem, a multidisciplinary approach is needed and cardiologists, psychotherapists and urologists should work together to help patients to improve their health status and quality of life.
“The wellness of the body, of the couple, and of the mind independently affects the cardiovascular fate of men with erectile dysfunction… the need for a regular screening for cardiac morbidity in men with erectile dysfunction is even greater in those patients showing depressive symptoms.”