The Link Between High Cholesterol and Erectile Dysfunction

March 22, 2021


High cholesterol and erectile dysfunction are two health conditions that commonly co-exist. Having high cholesterol can hinder sexual performance and decrease libido, and ED is commonly the earliest noted symptom of high cholesterol in men.

How are they connected?

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance in the bloodstream. We have both ‘good cholesterol’ (called HDL) and ‘bad cholesterol’ (called LDL). When there is too much LDL in the bloodstream, plaque is created in the arteries which blocks proper blood flow. When these circulation issues occur in the genital area and penis, erectile dysfunction or erection problems can occur. The more LDL you have in your bloodstream, the greater the chance of developing erection problems or impotence. 

High cholesterol also affects the body’s ability to properly release nitric oxide into the bloodstream. Nitric oxide is needed to allow for the proper relaxation of the penile tissue that leads to the blood flow that creates the erection.

Additionally, high cholesterol is linked to lowered testosterone production. Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in men, controlling sexual drive and desire, and is needed for beginning and maintaining an erection. The testicles produce the body’s testosterone, and high cholesterol limits blood flow to the testicles. As a result, too much cholesterol may damage their ability to produce testosterone, which can lead to ED.

Unfortunately, common medications that are effective for reducing cholesterol by decreasing lipids in the body can also lead to symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

5 Simple Dietary Changes to Reduce Cholesterol

  • Pay attention to the fats you eat.  Keep dietary fats to no more than a third of daily calories, while reducing or avoiding saturated fats. Saturated fats (found in animal fats, dairy, baked goods, and processed foods) raise LDL and lower HDL. You also want to avoid Trans fats, found in hydrogenated oil and fried foods. Focus instead on healthier unsaturated fats like nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
  • Limit foods with cholesterol.  Aim for less than 200mg of cholesterol per day. High cholesterol foods include fatty meats, liver and other organs, egg yolks, and dairy.
  • Eat plenty of soluble fiber.  Fiber prevents cholesterol from being absorbed through the digestive tract. Some high fiber foods include whole grains, oats, fruits such as apples and bananas, and legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas. 
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.   Fruits and vegetables contain compounds that can help lower cholesterol. Plant stanols or sterols work like soluble fiber. Pectin found in fruits can also lower cholesterol up to 10%.
  • Eat foods with omega-3 fatty acid.  While they won’t lower your LDL, they can raise your HDL, which absorbs the cholesterol and carries it back to the liver. Some high omega-3 foods are salmon, tuna, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and soy beans.

If you would like to speak to our on-staff nutritionist about making proper dietary changes as an additional step in preventing or reducing symptoms of erectile dysfunction, please call us at (512) 694-8888 or schedule a consultation online.