Sexual health as a mirror of cardiovascular health: closing a gender gap and promoting lifestyle changes
Erectile dysfunction is considered a harbinger for cardiovascular (CV) disease and has been claimed as providing a “window of curability” in men to perform the requisite CV risk assessment. In contrast, whether sexual health can be a proxy for CV health in women is still an unanswered question. Epidemiologic and observational studies suggest that the prevalence of female sexual dysfunction (FSD) is higher in women with classic CV risk factors, including diabetes mellitus, obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and the metabolic syndrome. Longitudinal data are extremely scant, but show that treatment of CV risk factors, i.e. weight loss, is able to improve subjective measures of sexual function in women.
The main aims of this observational study will be:
- To evaluate the correlations between CV risk categories and sexual function in men and women;
- To compare the eventual correlations between men and women;
- To develop a brief e-health info program about how to protect or facilitate sexual health, and to make it available for participants that show an interest in improving or maintaining their sexual health.
Démarche mise en œuvre
In this context, we aim to assess sexual function and sexual-related distress by validated questionnaires (including the Female Sexual Function Index, FSFI; International Index of Erectile Dysfunction, IIEF) in a population of men and women consulting health care services for hypertension and other CV risk factors. In this population, individual CV risk will be identified based on the criteria of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and stratified in 3 categories (low-moderate CV risk; high-very high CV risk, without personal history of CV events; history of previous Major Adverse Cardiovascular Events. Interest in sexual health, demographic and lifestyle parameters (diet, exercise) will also be investigated.
The project will involve PhD students, residents, graduates and undergraduates of the following universities:
- Florence: Prof. Linda Vignozzi, Dept. of Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences "Mario Serio", University of Florence, Italy - Head "Andrology, Women's Endocrinology and Gender Incongruence Unit" - Careggi Hospital, Florence, Italy
- Leiden: Dr Stephanie Both, Outpatient Clinic of Psychosomatic Gynecology and Sexology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands
Bilan et perspectives
We hope to shade light on the association between CV and sexual health in women and on the possibility of using sexuality as an important motivator for promoting a healthy lifestyle.