Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Health: Is There a Link?

More than 18 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction, but help may not require a pill.

Erectile dysfunction, also called "ED" or impotence, is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection on repeated occasions. ED is common, affecting 40 percent of men older than 40 and 70 percent of those over 70. Yet despite these numbers, relatively few men seek a doctor’s help for the issue.

Causes of ED

While anxiety, depression and stress can all contribute to ED – a condition known as psychogenic ED – they can also signal the presence of more threatening medical conditions. Erectile dysfunction was much more common among men with diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease and those who were physically inactive, researchers from Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health have found. These conditions could include pelvic trauma, nervous system disorders and diseased arteries - known as vascular ED - which is the most common nonpsychogenic form of ED.

ED and Your Heart

Almost 90 percent of men with erectile dysfunction had at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, smoking, or diabetes. Vascular ED stems from poor blood flow inside arteries that have been hardened and narrowed by the buildup of fat and calcium deposits – a condition known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is also the cause of most heart attacks or strokes.

Another cause of vascular ED is a condition known as endothelial dysfunction. The condition is caused by the insufficient release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which is needed for blood vessel relaxation, the underlying mechanism of erection.

Both atherosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction are intensified by smoking, lack of physical activity, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And experts estimate that more than 40 percent of men with ED and risk factors for cardiovascular disease are unaware of their heart risk. Because of these connections, vascular ED should be heeded as a warning that there may be something wrong in the arteries.

What You Can Do

Vascular ED is triggered by the same factors that lead to cardiovascular damage, so thwarting either takes a similar approach – healthy lifestyle, good diet, regular exercise, no smoking and maintaining normal blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.

If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, the first thing you should do is to see a Philadelphia urologist. Speak up about problems you are having with your doctor. After all, more could be at stake than your sex life. A urologist can help to find the underlying cause of your ED and work with you to find a solution.

Next, it is a good idea to get screened for heart disease if your doctor determines that vascular ED could be your condition. Even if no cardiac trouble is detected, ED symptoms often precede the onset of heart symptoms by at least two years. This gives you the chance to intervene and stop cardiac disease in its tracks.

Finally, work with your doctor to find the ED solution for you. Depending on the cause, this could be as simple as making lifestyle adjustments or finding an impotence medication that is right for you.

If you would like more information or if you are ready to start finding the treatment for you, call Philadelphia Urology Associates at (215) 563-1199 to schedule a consultation or contact us online.

Comments are closed.