Statins can not only lower cholesterol and decrease risk of heart attack and stroke, but if you are an older man, then they may also improve your sexual health, new research finds.
Erectile dysfunction is often experienced by older men who have poor cardiovascular health, diabetes or metabolic syndrome. In fact, erectile dysfunction could be interpreted as a warning sign of cardiovascular disease.
It is "similar to a canary in a coal mine," according to Dr. John B. Kostis, author of the new study and director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ.
Statins are prescribed to lower cholesterol. They work by blocking substances that the body needs to make cholesterol. They also help to reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in plaques on the artery walls, which prevents further blockage in the blood vessels.
Doctors believe that statins may be effective in treating conditions other than high cholesterol. Medical conditions for which doctors think statins may have beneficial applications include:
- Arthritis and bone fractures
- Some forms of cancer
- Dementia and Alzheimer's disease
- Kidney disease
- Controlling the body's immune system after an organ transplant.
In 2013, Medical News Today reported on a study in the journal Annals of Surgery that suggested statins could help prevent cognitive decline after surgery.
But more research is needed to explore what other benefits this class of drugs may provide.
Meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials
Doctors believe that statins may be effective in treating conditions other than high cholesterol, but more research is needed.
Dr. Kostis and his team reviewed the data of 11 randomized controlled trials on erectile dysfunction and statins.
Presenting the team's findings simultaneously at the American College of Cardiology's Annual Scientific Session and in the The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Dr. Kostis says:
"Our research indicates that statins not only improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack, but also improve erectile function in the men included in our analysis."
He warns, though, that statins should not be prescribed for erectile dysfunction without symptoms of cardiovascular disease, or when erectile dysfunction may be caused by psychosocial factors.
Dr. Kostis says this is because further study is still required to fully understand the link between statin therapy and improvement of erectile function.
"Ultimately, a healthy lifestyle is the best method to prevent disease, including erectile dysfunction. But statin therapy has been proven to provide long-term benefits in reducing cardiovascular disease and the detrimental consequences associated with it. Offering statin therapy to improve erectile function may extend these benefits further."
Although statins are very effective at lowering cholesterol, they do have some potentially serious side effects. These include liver damage, muscle problems, increased blood sugar or type 2 diabetes, and neurological side effects - such as memory loss or confusion.
A 2013 study reported by Medical News Today also found that high-potency statins are linked to a higher risk of being hospitalized for acute kidney injury, with a risk that persists for 2 years.