Potent Men Live Longer After Radical Prostatectomy

Erectile dysfunction (ED) and cardiovascular disease are often linked; in fact, ED has been recognized as one of the early warning signs of heart trouble. There are several reasons why the two often seem to go together: One is that the same buildup of plaque that causes the arteries to narrow in heart disease can hinder blood fl ow to the penis; so can some hypertension medications — which do such a good job of lowering blood pressure that they don't allow the blood fl ow necessary for erection; and depression, which often accompanies heart disease, may be still another reason why these two conditions are linked.

Many men with erectile
dysfunction lived more than 20
years after their surgery.

In a recent study, Brady scientists Misop Han, M.D., and Patrick C. Walsh, M.D., investigated whether ED has any association with how long men live after radical prostatectomy. Would men who were potent before surgery, they wondered, live longer than men who were experiencing ED before surgery? To fi nd out, Han studied the before-and-after potency information of more than 2,500 men, all Walsh's patients, who had undergone radical prostatectomy at Hopkins (from a resource pool of available information on than 3,500 men who underwent surgery performed by Walsh during the study period).

"We discovered that men who were potent before surgery lived signifi cantly longer than men who were not," says Han. For example, at 20 years after surgery, 69 percent of potent men were alive, but only 52 percent of the men with ED were alive. Walsh notes that potency before surgery did not affect men's survival from prostate cancer: in other words, men with ED were just as cancer-free after surgery as potent men.

Han, the study's leader, believes that the men who were potent probably lived longer because they were younger and healthier when they underwent surgery. "However," he points out, many men with erectile dysfunction lived more than 20 years after their surgery." He adds that lifestyle changes — getting in better shape in general, by exercising, eating better, and losing excess weight — can improve potency, and "men who better their overall health may improve their life expectancy, as well."

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