WEDNESDAY, Aug. 1, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- For men, adding more inches to the waistline could mean trouble in the bedroom, a new study finds.
Obese men not only raise their risk for heart disease and metabolic disorders, but they may also boost their odds for sexual dysfunction and frequent urination, say researchers from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City.
"The findings demonstrate that obesity in men -- part of a growing global epidemic -- affects their well-being in profound ways," study senior author Dr. Steven Kaplan, professor of urology at the medical school and chief of the hospital's Institute for Bladder and Prostate Health, said in a hospital news release.
He said the findings highlight the notion that "we have to think of the body in a much more holistic way. What we eat can have devastating consequences on more than just our hearts. Quality-of-life issues, such as sexual and voiding health, can be affected as well in drastic ways."
The researchers examined more than 400 men with lower urinary tract symptoms, such as more frequent urination during the day and at night. The men ranged from 40 to 91 years of age. Of these men, 37.5 percent had a waist circumference of less than 36 inches, about one-third had a waistline between 36 and 40 inches and 29 percent had waists larger than 40 inches.
Obesity also affected the men's sexual health, the study revealed. After surveying the men, the investigators found that about three-quarters of those with the largest waists experienced erectile dysfunction and 65 percent had problems with ejaculation.
But as obesity lessened, sexual function improved. Erectile dysfunction was only reported in half of the men with 36- to 40-inch waists, the researchers noted, and only 40 percent of the men in this group also experienced problems with ejaculation.
Of the men with the smallest waists, 32 percent reported erectile dysfunction and 21 percent had problems ejaculating, the survey indicated.
The study also found that the men with larger waists were affected by more frequent urination. Almost four out of every 10 men with the largest waist measurements urinated more than eight times in 24 hours. In comparison, this was true for only 27 percent of men with waistlines measuring between 36 and 40 inches and just 16 percent of men with the smallest waist size.
Although the researchers are uncertain about why obesity is linked to sexual and urinary problems, they suggested changes in blood flow to the pelvis may be a contributing factor. They also speculated that changes in hormone levels due to obesity could also play a role.
"We now have an expanded understanding of how obesity can impact the health of men, and a simple way to recognize which men might be affected in these ways," concluded Kaplan. "This adds even more importance to the recommendation that men should maintain a healthy weight for their overall well-being."
The researchers added that losing weight could improve men's sexual and urinary health. They noted that after their study was completed, additional research also revealed that trimming just two-and-a-half inches from the waistline could dramatically improve men's sexual dysfunction and frequent urination.
The findings offer doctors a simple way to determine which men may be at greater risk for sexual dysfunction or urinary problems, the study's authors said. "Measuring a man's waistline is easy, noninvasive and does not require extensive testing," Kaplan noted.
In addition to urinary and sexual dysfunction, men with larger waists are also more likely to be affected by coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, the study authors found.
The study was published in the August issue of the British Journal of Urology International.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about obesity.