Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) and low levels of the male hormone testosterone face an increased risk of dying from heart disease, according to study findings presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology.

Additional findings by the same research group showed that obesity might interfere with blood flow to the penis, another risk factor for cardiovascular disease in men with ED.

For the first part of the study, researchers evaluated the testosterone levels of 1,687 men with ED. Scientists tracked the patients for an average of 4.3 years.

After they followed up, researchers found that 137 men suffered a serious cardiac event; 15 of them died.

Although researchers could not confirm that low testosterone triggered major cardiac events, they found that men with the least testosterone were more likely to die than men with higher amounts of the hormone.

“Our work shows that screening for testosterone deficiency in men with erectile dysfunction may help clinicians identify those at higher risk from cardiovascular events,” said Giovanni Corona, a doctor at the University of Florence in Italy, and the study’s lead researcher.

For the second part of the study, Corona and his colleagues separated the same participants into groups based on their body mass index (BMI), a ratio of their weight to height, and then evaluated them.

Researchers found that obese men with ED were more likely at risk of cardiovascular disease than leaner men with ED.

What did scientists conclude? That erectile dysfunction diagnoses should become an opportunity to screen not only for men’s sexual health but their general health too.

Click here to find out what other health conditions can cause erectile disorders.