Doctor links heart health and sex
By Raymond Hainey
Sex really is the way to a man’s heart, according to a visiting doctor from the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital in the US.
For Dr Kevin Billups, an associate professor at the Baltimore hospital, said that problems with sexual performance are a key early indicator of the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
And he added that — if the early warning signs were treated and used to underline the need to adopt healthier lifestyles — men could avoid major health complications later in life.
Dr Billups said: “A lot of it has to do with the fact that erectile dysfunction is related to blood flow disorders — we believe it’s an early warning sign and it’s an easy problem to notice.
“The reality is, it can be a marker of other problems that are going on.”
Dr Billups, in Bermuda to help island doctors and nurses keep up to speed on the latest medical thinking, said low testosterone was another key indicator that more health problems might be waiting down the line.
He added, that, in the past, it was thought that conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol might be the cause of sexual performance problems.
“Now what we are saying is that is certainly true, but the flip side of that is you could have erectile dysfunction and low testosterone before the problems even manifest themselves.
“If someone gets that symptom, the reason you should pay attention is that it can be a marker.”
Dr Billups added that men were traditionally reluctant to visit a doctor.
And he said that Bermuda’s high rates of obesity and diabetes suggested that sexual performance problems were also common.
Dr Billups said: “I bet it’s quite common — but a lot of times doctors don’t ask about it and people don’t mention it to their doctors.
“We may not know the true incidence, but it’s probably higher than we think.”
Dr Billups, now the director of Johns Hopkins’ Integrative Men’s Health Programme, said he first made the connection about 20 years ago after seeing men in their 40s and 50s who had had heart attacks and also had sexual performance problems.
He added: “Two thirds of those guys were telling me they had erectile dysfunction three to six years before they had their heart problems — I went to my cardiologist colleagues and said something’s going on here.”
Dr Billups added that a layer of stomach fat in men not only led to the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen, a female hormone, but also produced other substances which could trigger vascular damage.
And he said that men, who tended to be reactive in terms of health rather than proactive, could be prompted to take better care of themselves when told their sexual performance would improve if they took better care of themselves.
He added: “In a lot of ways, men are ready for this. If you look, everywhere has women’s health centres. You don’t see many men’s health centres.
“And men here aren’t different from men anywhere else. If you can get them interested and going, that would be a major step forward.
“If men are having problems associated with erectile dysfunction or they feel tired and their sexual drive and energy is down, don’t rationalize it. Go and see a doctor. We can treat the problem and pick up on a bigger problem.”