What do cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction have in common? An awful lot, apparently, which is why a new study is pushing for cardiovascular disease (CVD) screenings to become the standard procedure for men experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED). According to the study researchers, such a move could be cost-effective, saving nearly $21 billion in medical treatment over the course of 20 years, while improving quality of life for countless men.

The researchers say that although not all men with ED experience ED symptoms due to vascular problems, some do. It’s this demographic that would benefit most from screenings. More than 18 million men in the U.S. have ED, more than eight million have CVD, and more than two million have both, according to the study.

“If you are able to identify the men with ED caused by vascular disease, which also causes cardiovascular disease, then you can treat those men and prevent cardiovascular events such as heart disease and stroke,” Dr. Alexander W. Pastuszak, lead author on the study, told Reuters via email.

Doctors first noticed the link between ED and CVD when they discovered the heart medication Viagra also helped men with impotence.

Erectile dysfunction is believed to affect around 20 percent of men in all age groups but is significantly more popular among middle-aged and older men. The screening would not include all men, but rather “high profile” men, who along with their ED also experience chest pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath.

Such an implementation would save billions. It costs an average of $138 to screen men with ED for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, but treating an acute heart attack costs around $11,000. The study estimated that over the course of 20 years, screening and treating men with conditions that would have otherwise gone undiagnosed would save $20.4 billion in treatment expenditure. Treating the underlying cause of a man’s impotence could also save an additional $9.7 on ED medication.

As Pastuszak explained, the screening implementation would not only save money, but also lives.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, men should know that early diagnosis and treatment of CVD and its risk factors can save them not only money, but can improve their quality of life by preventing more morbid cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke,” Pastuszak said.

Source: Pastuszak AW, Hyman DA, Yadav N, et al. Erectile Dysfunction as a Marker for Cardiovascular Disease Diagnosis and Intervention: A Cost Analysis. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2015.