Erectile dysfunction can become an increasing problem as men age. Although this problem is an integral part of the aging process, new research shows that it is also a key predictor of early mortality.

Erectile dysfunction affects 1 in 2 men over 50

A recent health study in middle-aged men found that difficulty getting or keeping an erection may work as an “early warning sign” for reduced mortality.

The European Aging Male Study (EMAS) asked 1,788 men between the ages of 40 and 79 to report any health problems or conditions they experienced during a given period – finding that reports of erectile dysfunction (DE) were correlated with the development of more severe disease and early death.

Although erectile dysfunction is often associated with lower testosterone levels, the study found no relationship between testosterone levels and age at death.

Often, performance issues can be a sign of a broader health issue, such as adult-onset diabetes or high cholesterol, which were among the top life-limiting factors for survey participants.

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Erectile dysfunction is associated with mortality, while the association between low testosterone (T) and higher mortality remains controversial,” the study researchers wrote.

They continued, “Sexual dysfunction and low T often coexist, but the relative importance of sexual symptoms versus low T in predicting mortality is not known.”

Maintaining a testosterone level within a healthy range is important for men’s physical and reproductive health, and doctors will often check the “T” levels of patients referred with ED.

EMAS was launched to identify and measure differences in symptoms and disabilities associated with aging in men from different parts of Europe.

The key point of the study results was that men with three sexual symptoms (erectile dysfunction, reduced morning erections, and low libido) had a higher risk of death than men with none of these symptoms.

What conditions can erectile dysfunction be a symptom of?

Performance issues are often caused by health conditions that affect blood circulation or the nervous system, making them a key warning sign of illnesses ranging from hypertension to Parkinson’s disease.

NHS advice on erectile dysfunction says you should speak to your GP or go to a sexual health clinic if you have persistent problems maintaining an erection. The health department says the most common causes include the following.

Possible cause:

Narrowing of penile blood vessels, high blood pressure, high cholesterol


Medication to lower blood pressure, statins to lower cholesterol

Possible cause:

Hormonal problems


Hormone replacement (eg, testosterone)

Possible cause:

Side effects of prescribed medications


Change of medication after discussion with the general practitioner

List of possible conditions:

Leading US health care providers, Mayo Clinic, provide a comprehensive list of possible health issues that may be indicated by penile performance issues, which are:

  • heart disease
  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome – a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist, and high cholesterol
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain prescription drugs
  • Smoking
  • Peyronie’s disease – development of scar tissue inside the penis
  • Alcoholism and other forms of drug addiction
  • sleep disorders
  • Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
  • Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord
  • Low testosterone levels.

Can you take Viagra if you have any of these conditions?

Just because you have erectile dysfunction and it’s caused by one of these underlying health conditions doesn’t mean you’re impotent.

It’s best to consult your doctor first, but common treatments like Viagra can be prescribed for people with diabetes or heart disease.

Dr Taguri from Lloyd’s Pharmacy said: “Yes, living with diabetes can mean erectile dysfunction is more common, but you should still be able to take medication for your ED.

“You will also need to check that you are not taking any medications that may interact with Viagra and other similar medications.

“In most cases, you can take erectile dysfunction medication if you have heart disease. If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke in the last six months, or if you take nitrates for a heart condition such as angina, most erectile dysfunction medications will not be prescribed to you.

“In these cases, a vacuum pump can help you manage your ED.”

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