Is Erectile Dysfunction a Sign of Heart Disease?

Rohan Mathew

Health issues are a part and parcel of our daily life. As we age, our bodies tend to resist the hefty activities that we do and the junk that we eat frequently. Our metabolism slows down and several health conditions arise. For men who are involved in sexual activities, this can be really distressing. A crack develops in relationships as men fail to satisfy their needs sexually. A problem such as Erectile Dysfunction (ED) that makes a man unable to achieve or sustain an erection occurs due to improper blood flow to the penis. While the prevalence of this disorder increases with age, young males can be affected by this problem too. And the risk for ED is defined by how well a person’s heart and arteries are. This is because for an erection to occur, proper blood must flow to the penis. And a disease such as atherosclerosis that occurs when there’s a build up of cholesterol plaque in the walls of arteries makes it harder for blood to flow properly. As various evidence suggest, ED can be a sign of an underlying heart disease. If you have been facing trouble performing in bed lately, you should seek help from a medical professional.

ED and Your Heart – What are the Risk Factors?

Erectile dysfunction affects more than 30 million men in the US. It is estimated that 1 in 10 adult males suffer from this problem on a long-term basis. While there are many reasons that contribute to ED, there are some problems that commonly cause ED.

These include:

  1. Diabetes – This problem causes nerve damage that makes achieving an erection difficult. A whopping 35 to 50 percent of the male population suffer from ED due to diabetes.
  2. Vascular diseases – Conditions such as high blood cholesterol, hypertension, and atherosclerosis that affect the blood vessels restrict blood flow to the heart, brain, and the penis. In men aged 60 years and above, atherosclerosis alone is known to be one of the major causes for erectile dysfunction.
  3. Kidney problems – A kidney disease can cause chemical changes that can affect hormones, circulation, and energy levels. This, in turn, can lead to a lowered sexual drive, thereby leading to ED.
  4. Prostate cancer – Treatments for prostate cancer have been known to cause ED.
  5. Psychological problems – These include conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression.

While the above-mentioned problems commonly contribute to ED, there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of this problem.

  • Aging – As a person ages, the risk for both ED and heart disease increases. For men aged 50 years and below, this problem is likely to be caused by an underlying heart disease.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use – Smoking increases the risk of developing vascular disease and hinders blood flow as well. On the other hand, alcohol might contribute to heart disease and impair erections.
  • Obesity – People who are overweight are likely to fall prey to heart disease, atherosclerosis, and sexual disorders.
  • Low Testosterone levels – Testosterone levels are directly linked to the sexual drive of a person. Low T levels can cause low libido and result in erectile dysfunction.

Potential treatments for ED include prescription medications such as 200 mg sildenafil citrate which is given to patients with a severe case of erectile dysfunction. For people with mild to moderate symptoms, a lower dosage may be prescribed.

Taking a Look at the Studies

Various research indicates that erectile dysfunction may be one of the biggest risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

A study conducted on 2,000 men with a mean age of 69 studied that none of these men had a prior history of heart disease or stroke. Nearly 46% of these men reported suffering from ED. After a span of 4 years, the study found out that around 115 men with ED symptoms died from a heart attack, disease or stroke. It was concluded that men with ED experienced twice such events than men without ED.

Erection is known to be a process that is regulated by hormones and neurovascular mechanisms in cerebral and peripheral levels. Since most men do not seek treatment for ED, the prevalence of this disorder increases as compared to the reported figures. Furthermore, the incidence of this problem is 42 to 57 percent in men with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) and 33.8% in men with diabetes and silent ischaemia. 

But guess what? There are treatment options that can help. 

Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction Caused by Heart Disease

If you find yourself having trouble maintaining or achieving erections, it becomes important to seek help from a medical professional. Your doctor may help find the exact cause of the problem. If he thinks that you may be at risk of heart disease, he might ask you to make certain lifestyle changes. These include adding exercise to your daily routine and eating a well-balanced diet. Furthermore, if you indulge in any activities such as smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, etc., you should consider taking a break from it. If the cause of erectile dysfunction is heart disease, your doctor may find that the blood flow to the penis is improper. For this, he may prescribe you drugs such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra. These drugs are called PDE 5 inhibitors and they work by increasing the blood flow to the penis. While a dose of Viagra works in most cases, for men who don’t achieve any significant results can ask their doctor to change their medication.

Your doctor may prescribe you a dose of Cialis 60 mg that works in most of the cases and helps you gain an erection for a long period of time. 

If you have been taking any other medications lately, don’t forget to discuss potential drug interactions with your doctor. While managing erectile dysfunction may seem difficult at first, it can be treated effectively and the situation gets better with time. Make sure you get a diagnosis done from the doctor any follow up with him regularly. Get your vitals checked and make the most of your daily routine.