Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and Your Overall Health

August 12, 2021

Erectile dysfunction (ED) greatly affects the quality of life in men. ED rates have increased during the last twenty to thirty years, especially among younger men. It’s one of the top reasons why men seek medical care from their urologist. According to a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, 1 out of every 4 erectile dysfunction patients is under 40 years old.

Erectile dysfunction is two-fold. It includes difficulty achieving an erection and/or difficulty maintaining an erection. Achieving and maintaining an erection is a complex process involving psychological impulses from the brain, adequate levels of the male sex hormone testosterone, a functioning nervous system, and adequate, healthy blood vessels in the penis.

There is some evidence that indicates that ED may be more than just a disruption in the bedroom. Links to ED and heart disease are well-known, and a study published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine just made the connection even clearer. If ED is present, it may indicate more than just trouble in the bedroom and a decreased quality of life. A meta-analysis of studies on over 150,000 men compared those with and without symptoms of ED. The study demonstrated that men with ED have a 59% higher risk of heart disease (coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis), a 34% higher risk of stroke and a 33% higher risk from dying from any cause.

Erectile dysfunction can develop many years before any symptoms of heart disease or attack. Persistent ED is potentially the first warning sign of underlying heart disease. The penile artery that provides blood flow to the penis is smaller than most other blood vessels so it would be one of the first blood vessels to demonstrate early signs of heart disease. If the blood vessels to the penis have enough plaque/cholesterol build-up and an inability to dilate properly, they’re unable to supply enough blood flow to achieve or sustain an erection.

Simple lifestyle changes are the first and most important measures to tackle if you want to intervene in the process of heart disease. Quitting smoking, losing the extra weight with an improved diet and daily aerobic exercise while also decreasing stress are all achievable changes that can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Visiting your doctor annually to check bloodwork for cholesterol, diabetes and even imaging can help assess risks of a cardiovascular event and heart disease well before ED becomes an established problem.

If you are interested in more information regarding prevention of ED and cardiovascular disease, contact Austin Urology Institute to schedule an appointment with a provider at 512-694-8888.