American College of Cardiology (cardiosmart.org)
March 31, 2014
Popular cholesterol-lowering drugs may offer added benefit for men with erectile dysfunction.
Men prescribed cholesterol-lowering statins may have an extra reason to take their medication, according to research linking statins to improved sexual function.
Presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session, this study reviewed 11 clinical trials investigating erectile function in recent years. Each study used the International Inventory of Erectile Function survey, which includes a total of five questions and asks men to rank their sexual function on a scale of one to five. On average, men included in the study were around 58 years old, many of which were taking statins to control their cholesterol levels.
After analysis, researchers found that men with erectile dysfunction who were taking statins for high cholesterol saw a significant increase in sexual function. In fact, erectile function scores increased by 3.4 points in men who took statins, which is equal to a 25% increase in overall sexual function.
Lead study investigator John B. Kostis, MD, FACC, helps put this benefit in perspective: “The increase in erectile function scores with statins was approximately one-third to one-half of what has been reported with drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra.” Kostis also adds that the erectile function benefits associated with statin use was larger than the reported effect of lifestyle modification. In other words, statins may be pretty powerful in improving sexual function, especially since the chief purpose of these drugs is to treat high cholesterol.
But researchers say there’s a likely explanation for their findings. By lowering cholesterol levels, statins help keep the arteries clear and promote healthy blood flow throughout the body. In doing so, statins may also help improve blood flow to the penis, which is often a problem for the millions of men that suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Of course, statins are not recommended solely for the treatment of erectile dysfunction in patients with healthy cholesterol levels. However, “for men with erectile dysfunction who need statins to control cholesterol, this may be an extra benefit,” says Kostis. Millions of Americans are prescribed statins to prevent heart disease, but not everyone takes their medication as directed. Kostis hopes that the immediate benefit of improving erectile function might improve adherence to statin therapy, helping to prevent more heart attacks in men with high cholesterol.
Questions for You to Consider
What are statins?
Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol. They help lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol, which can help prevent heart attack and stroke. Statins prevent your body from making new cholesterol and may help reduce the amount of plaque already built up on artery walls.
How many men suffer from erectile dysfunction?
It is estimated that 18 million men in the United States experience erectile dysfunction. Major risk factors for erectile dysfunction include diabetes, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, overweight, depression, stress, heart disease and certain medical treatments.
How are erectile dysfunction and heart disease related?
The causes of erectile dysfunction and heart disease are very similar. Heart disease often occurs when there is a build-up of plaque in the arteries, which decreases blood flow to the heart, brain and rest of the body. Therefore, this build-up of plaque can affect blood flow to the penis, just as it would affect blood flow to the heart, sometimes causing or worsening erectile dysfunction.