Erectile dysfunction or the inability to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse has been shown to be closely linked to cardiovascular disease56 57. In fact, in a study of men hospitalized for a heart attack, 64% of them had erectile dysfunction or ED1.
In a normal erection, signals from the brain cause blood to fill the two chambers in the penis known as the corpora cavernosa. This filling causes the penis to expand and stiffen creating an erection. Long story short, good erections require good blood flow to the penis54.
Hardening of the arteries, caused by atherosclerosis or plaque buildup, can narrow blood vessels and restrict blood flow to various parts of the body including the penis. Since the arteries supplying blood to the penis are much smaller than the ones supplying the heart, problems with blood flow may first show up as having difficulty achieving an erection58.
More Than a Problem in the Bedroom
Much more than just a problem in the bedroom, ED could be a warning sign that something more serious is going on. Studies have shown that having erectile dysfunction is as great of a risk factor for heart attack and stroke as things we are all familiar with such as; family history of heart attack, smoking, and high cholesterol59. A study showed that compared to men without ED, men with moderate to severe ED have a 62% greater risk of developing symptomatic heart disease11.
Lifestyles changes such as quitting smoking, moderating alcohol consumption, getting regular exercise, losing weight and eating a healthy diet are likely to reduce cardiovascular risk and may improve erectile function5. However, talking with your healthcare provider about ED may help identify and prevent progression of heart disease and reduce the likelihood of heart attack or stroke.
“ED precedes coronary artery disease in almost 70% of cases. ED could be an indicator of silent cardiac disease11.”
It is important for all men to understand the connection between ED and heart disease and see a doctor specializing in erectile dysfunction to discuss your concerns. No matter the severity or physical cause of a man’s ED, there are solutions to regain intimacy, self-confidence and return to a satisfying sex life.