Heart disease is a type of cardiovascular disease, which is now the leading cause of death globally.
It could trigger heart disease and stroke, meaning that catching it early may save your life.
Scientists have suggested that erectile dysfunction could be used as an accurate measure of whether a person is likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Erectile dysfunction usually affects men over 40 years, and is an inability to get and maintain an erection.
While it has long been linked to cardiovascular disease, the new research published in the journal Vascular Medicine suggests that erectile dysfunction could be used as a red flag particularly in younger men who may not be tested as rigorously for cardiovascular disease because of their age.
Researchers looked at 28 studies and discovered a strong link between the two conditions.
Both cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction have a number of the same risk factors, including being old, smoking, obesity, and diabetes.
Erectile dysfunction was also linked to a reduced ability of the blood vessels to relax, and it has also been associated with early atherosclerosis – where plaque builds up inside the arteries.
Dr Naomi Hamburg and Dr Matt Kluge from Boston University said of the study: “The presence of erectile dysfunction portends a higher risk of future cardiovascular events, particularly in intermediate risk men, and may serve as an opportunity for intensification of cardiovascular risk prevention strategies.”
Spotting cardiovascular disease early means steps can be taken to stop it becoming deadly.
These may include smoking, medications such as statins, controlling blood pressure, managing weight, exercising and improving diet.
However, erectile dysfunction is not always a sign of future cardiovascular disease.
According to the NHS, it could also be caused by stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol.
It could also be due to hormone problems or side effects of prescribed medications.
It may be solved with lifestyle changes – some of which could also help reduce cardiovascular disease risk too.
The NHS recommend losing weight if you are overweight, stooping smoking, eating a healthy diet, exercising and trying to reduce stress.