Occasionally, I like to throw in a few conversations just for the men out there—and of course, for those who love them.
Because let’s face it: Men are notoriously bad at taking care of their own health. Yes, there are plenty of exceptions. (And yes, I consider myself one of those exceptions.) But I’d estimate that a good 70 percent of my practice is women.
Not to mention, women typically accompany the men I do see in my office—yet it’s hardly ever the other way around. So it’s really no wonder that women make up to 90 percent of all healthcare decisions in our country.
With that said, there is one health issue that—at least, in my experience—always gets a man’s attention. So, let’s talk a little bit more about it today…
A dangerous red flag
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is easily one of the most feared problems among men. And for a good reason.
But not just because of the impact it has on intimacy. As I’ve mentioned before, ED is often one of the earliest warning signs of much bigger health problems.
In fact, according to one new analysis, ED and other symptoms of sexual dysfunction are linked with a higher risk of death. And that association was completely independent from testosterone levels.
Researchers looked at nearly 2,000 participants of the European Male Ageing Study, which collected baseline data on sexual function and testosterone levels between 2003 and 2005.
All the men were between the ages of 40 and 79 years at the start of the study. And over the long follow-up period—a median of 12.4 years—just over 25 percent of these participants died.
The men who didn’t survive shared some common characteristics:
- Body mass index (BMI) was generally higher.
- Levels of free (but not total) testosterone were lower. (In fact, the men with the lowest levels of free testosterone, unsurprisingly, happened to have the highest mortality risk.)
Plus, men who reported three sexual symptoms at the start of the study faced a higher risk of death than those who reported none. There were also clear links between death risk and both ED and poor morning erections. (But not low libido.)
But here’s the important part: Those links didn’t change at all once researchers adjusted for total or free testosterone levels. Sexual symptoms still raised mortality risk by more than 50 percent.
What you don’t know can kill you
This is not the first study to link sexual dysfunction with higher death risk. Or the first study to link testosterone level with mortality.
But it is the first time that researchers have untangled sexual symptoms from testosterone levels in the same group of men… and shown that ED is a big red flag all by itself.
And if you ask me, it’s about time. Because in my clinical experience, a man with erectile difficulties is more likely to engage with the healthcare system. And when a man at least gets in the door, we can look at other issues, too.
Of course, it won’t make much of a difference if doctors and patients alike can’t get over their reliance on Big Pharma. Too many people view ED as a simple issue you can fix with a pill. Unfortunately, urologists and internists are no exception.
So let me stress one point: The underlying cause of your ED should always be examined. Because it’s much easier (and more effective) to recommend a strategic treatment approach from there. But if your doc just hands you a script for a little blue pill and sends you on your way, you could be missing some very lethal problems.
As this study shows, ED is another warning signal we can use to predict serious trouble in male patients—one that’s as reliable as high blood pressure or hardening arteries. So your doctor should be asking you about your sexual health as well as your physical activity levels and weight management. And if they don’t, it might be time to find one that does.
In the meantime, you can get a head start by checking out the January 2017 issue of my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives (“Beyond the little blue pill”). Not yet a subscriber? Click here to sign up today.
The bottom line is that this is no time to be shy, fellas. If you’re having trouble in the bedroom, it might be nothing… or it might be a whole heck of a lot more than that. So… go see your doctor. Get a physical and some blood work.
It certainly won’t kill you. But it will help you live (not to mention do a few other things—wink, wink) better and longer.
“Erectile Dysfunction: It’s Worse Than You Think.” Medscape Medical News, 04/15/2020. (medscape.com/viewarticle/928734)