TUESDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The lifestyle changes and medications used to reduce risk factors for heart disease may also improve sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction, according to a new study.

Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., analyzed six previous studies from four countries involving 740 men to determine how lifestyle changes and drugs used to treat risk factors for heart disease affected the severity of their erectile dysfunction (ED).

Each study reviewed reported improvements in men's erectile dysfunction as a result of lifestyle changes and better blood lipid levels. Heart disease and ED share certain controllable risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity, the researchers explained.

Moreover, erectile dysfunction appears to be an indicator of heart disease, the researchers said. "Men with ED provide an opportunity to identify CV risk factors and initiate lifestyle changes," the authors wrote.

The study, published online Sept. 12 in Archives of Internal Medicine, concluded that when cardiac risk factors improved, so did sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction. When either drugs or lifestyle changes to combat heart disease were considered alone, the benefits to the men's sexual function was still significant, the researchers noted in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on heart disease risk factors.