Risk Factors for Developing Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

September 2, 2021

Erectile dysfunction (ED) greatly affects the quality of life in men. ED rates have increased during the last 20-30 years, especially among younger men. It is one of the top reasons why men seek medical care from their urologist. According to a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine, one out of every four erectile dysfunction patients is under 40 years old.

Erectile dysfunction is two-fold: It includes difficulty achieving and/or maintaining an erection. There are two “kinds” of ED: physiological and psychological erectile dysfunction 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 and 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, but 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 men 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 are present. Persistent ED might be 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 or cholesterol build-up, they’re unable to dilate properly and can’t supply enough blood flow to achieve or sustain an erection.

Simple lifestyle changes are the first and most important measures to tackle heart disease. Quitting smoking, losing extra weight with an improved diet (plant-based or Mediterranean diet), daily aerobic exercise and decreasing stress are all achievable changes that can greatly reduce the risk of heart disease.

Even before ED becomes an established problem, visiting your doctor annually to check bloodwork for cholesterol, diabetes and even imaging can assess your risk for a cardiovascular event or heart disease. If you are interested in more information regarding the prevention of ED and cardiovascular disease, contact Austin Urology Institute to schedule an appointment with a provider at 512-694-8888.