According to Gary Wittert, endocrinologist and Professor of Medicine at the University of Adelaide, erectile dysfunction is often a warning sign of underlying lifestyle-related diseases, which include heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
"For men, the penis is the window to the heart," ABC Online quoted Wittert, while speaking at the Australian Health and Medical Research Congress in Brisbane.
"The blood vessels in the penis are exactly the same as the blood vessels in the heart. If they have some erectile dysfunction then they've probably got subclinical coronary artery disease," the expert added.
A study of more than 19,000 men by Dr Ian Thompson of the Texas Health Science Center and colleagues, which was conducted in 2005, found that those who reported erectile dysfunction were just as likely to have a heart attack or stroke as smokers.
Much coverage has been given to the age-related decline in testosterone and it effect on sexuality, however Professor Wittert says there is plenty of evidence that healthy, active men are able to maintain a healthy, active sex life well into their later years.
"What I truly believe is it's not just age. It is not inevitable that you lose your erections with age," the expert added.
He says, as obesity becomes more prevalent in younger men, they too are experiencing erectile problems as a result of their weight and associated health problems.
"You're starting to see with obesity a very high prevalence of erectile dysfunction in younger men and it's a warning sign," the researcher said.