Caring Currents

In Men With Type 2 Diabetes, Bedroom Blues May Signal a Broken Heart

Last updated: May 30, 2008


Erectile dysfunction (ED) is an often hush-hush complication of type 2 diabetes. Damage to blood vessels caused by this chronic condition can also impact the most intimate of bodily functions. Now, a pair of studies adds to existing evidence that more than romance is at stake. 

Turns out that for men with diabetes, suffering from ED may be a potent marker for serious cardiac trouble, including heart attack and death. The same process that impedes blood flow to maintain an erection, scientists speculate, may have even longer lasting and more damaging consequences on the heart.

One investigation found that common cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins could cut the risk of heart problems by about one-third -- and suggested that ED meds such as Viagra may offer similar protection.

Importantly, the research underscores an often overlooked matter: Men should be encouraged to report ED to their healthcare professionals.  And, in seeking treatment to overcome impotence, it maybe be a good idea to focus on therapies that can improve heart health as well.

Of course, this is a pretty difficult topic to, um, raise, between a parent and child. Bad puns aside, it might help others to hear about how you've handled talking about this private topic. If you haven't been comfortable broaching the subject of sex with your parent, there's nothing stopping you from checking with your father's physician to make sure he or she asks these personal questions -- of both your parents. Yep, some men have, well, an inflated sense of themselves.

Treatments are available to deal with the indignity of ED, and include:

  • quitting smoking
  • reducing alcohol consumption
  • controlling blood sugar
  • medications like sildenafil (better known by its brand name Viagra)
  • penile injections
  • pumps, implants, and other devices

And if you need any more incentive to help your parent in matters of the heart, here's a fascinating factoid to contemplate, courtesy of endocrinologist Alan Rubin, author of Diabetes for Dummies:

Ninety percent of men with ED are successfully treated for the condition. But only 5 percent ever discuss the problem with their doctors. 

Now they have a potentially life-threatening reason to speak up.

Image by Flickr user tanakawho used under the Creative Commons attribution license.