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Am J Cardiol. 2000 Jul 20;86(2A):38F-40F.

Sexual activity and cardiac risk: is depression a contributing factor?

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College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


There is a well-documented association between depression, ischemic heart disease, and cardiovascular mortality. This association has a number of dimensions including: (1) depressed patients have a higher than expected rate of sudden cardiovascular death; (2) over the course of a lifetime, patients with depression develop symptomatic and fatal ischemic heart disease at a higher rate compared with a nondepressed group; and (3) depression after myocardial infarction (MI) is associated with increased cardiac mortality. Depression is also associated with sexual dysfunction, particularly erectile dysfunction. If depression is the primary illness, then erectile dysfunction can be considered a symptom of the depressive illness. However, if the erectile dysfunction is primary, men may develop a depressive syndrome in reaction to the loss of sexual function. Regardless of whether erectile dysfunction is a symptom of depression or depression is a consequence of erectile dysfunction, these conditions are frequently comorbid. Thus, the patient with ischemic heart disease who is depressed is more likely to have erectile difficulties. An attempt by this patient to engage in sexual activity is therefore more likely to be unsuccessful and, given the increase in cardiac mortality associated with depression, it may result in a serious cardiac event.

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