Sexual Health

Erectile Dysfunction – Warning Sign Of Cardiovascular Disease?

Erections are often considered a critical part of male health. Men rely on erections to have sex.

It also plays a crucial role in helping men engage in sexual intercourse, a vital element in the reproduction process. When men cannot have an erection, they may be affected by what is known as erectile dysfunction. 

This condition causes about 5% of men to lose their ability to have an erection by the age of 40. By the age of 70, about 15% of men have complete erectile dysfunction.

Some men with erectile dysfunction are able to have an erection still. The erection may not be strong enough for intercourse, or only last for a few seconds.

Some studies have shown that erectile dysfunction may be an early warning of certain heart diseases. It could signal blood flow problems. With this evidence, men are advised to take note of poor erectile function. 

What Is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is a relatively common condition among men. The condition is more prevalent among older male patients. It does, however, affect a small number of younger adult men as well.

The diagnosis tends to vary from one man to another, as several personal factors are considered. It is, however, important for men to consult with a professional when they have erectile difficulties. 

Erectile dysfunction is generally defined as problems getting or maintaining an erection. A small number of men develop complete ED. In such a case, the man will no longer be able to experience an erection at all. Even with sexual stimulation, there will not be an erection that develops. 

In the majority of cases, the man develops mild to moderate erectile dysfunction. This scenario means the man may still get an erection. Sexual stimulation causes the man to become erect, but the erection does not last long enough for sex to be satisfying for both the man and his partner. 

There are also cases where an erection is not rigid enough to have sex. 

Erectile dysfunction does not only affect the sexual well-being of a man. A lot of men find that this condition interferes with their ability to have sexual intercourse. This means the chances of reproduction become reduced. Additionally, mental complications are also common in men with erectile dysfunction. 

Studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between anxiety and erectile dysfunction. When the man is unable to perform during sex, he may develop performance anxiety. In turn, this can become a more serious psychological problem. Eventually, the continuous stress caused by poor erections could lead to depressive symptoms too. 

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction

Looking at the potential cause behind erectile dysfunction can be complicated. This is not a condition with just a single cause.

In fact, there are several categories of conditions that can affect a man’s abilities in the bedroom. In addition to considering actual ED causes, we need to look at factors associated with the related condition. 

Men with low libido may experience erectile dysfunction symptoms. However, the cause behind a low sex drive may be different compared to the health problems that lead to ED. 

Both physiological and psychological factors can cause erectile dysfunction. Men must recognize both types of causes. This helps them better understand what health factors might be behind poor erections. 

Psychological Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction

People who do not have severe erectile dysfunction may often find that the cause lies with their psychological health. Several psychological conditions can affect a man’s abilities in the bedroom. Apart from erectile dysfunction, other sexual symptoms may also be present in men with mental health issues. 

One factor that needs to be noted here is that the psychological and erectile dysfunction relation goes both ways. 

A common association is made between depression and ED. Men with depression are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction. This is primarily due to the fact that erections really start in the brain. A man generally requires some sort of sexual stimulation. This triggers hormones to be released in his brain. The release of these hormones has a connection to libido. 

Once release, the hormones act as messengers and move toward the penis. At the penis, hormones signal muscles to relax. This allows blood to flow into the blood vessels that are found in the penis. Blood then causes the penis to swell up and become erect. 

Depression can diminish a man’s libido. This means the man does not have much interest in sexual activities. If there is a lack of sexual desire, then it is harder for the brain to send these messengers to the penis. 

It should be noted that some men develop depression only after they experience erectile dysfunction. This is why the connection is considered complicated. Additionally, a man with existing depression can also experience a worsening of mental symptoms if ED develops. 

Depression is not the only psychological condition that can contribute to erectile dysfunction. Studies show that anxiety and fears also contribute to poor erections. In particular, men who fear sexual dysfunction are also more likely to have difficulty obtaining an erection during sex. 

Stress, in general, is another important contribution to ED that needs to be considered. High levels of chronic stress can cause hormonal imbalances in the body. It can also lead to psychological complications – and, in turn, affect a man’s libido. 

Physiological Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction

There are also cases where physiological factors affect a man’s abilities during sex. Each factor can affect the male body in a different way. Sometimes, the underlying cause is minor, and with appropriate treatment, complications can be effectively avoided. 

Heart disease and atherosclerosis are two important physiological causes that need to be taken into consideration. Men with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels also tend to be more likely to develop erectile dysfunction symptoms. 

Metabolic syndrome, a term for a combined range of disease, are known to increase the risk as well greatly. Metabolic syndrome is generally characterized by a higher body fat count in the individual’s waist, along with high insulin, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels

Other physiological factors that can affect erectile function include:

Obesity raises the risk of many conditions in men. This includes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more. The prevalence of erectile dysfunction also seems to be higher in men with obesity. Thus, this is another important physical cause of ED to consider. 

Some drugs are also known to contribute to poor erections. Some common drugs that have been found to cause erectile problems among men include:

  • Clorazepate

  • Buspirone

  • Amitriptyline

  • Amoxapine

  • Desipramine

  • Fluoxetine

  • Phenytoin

  • Thiothixene

  • Sertraline

  • Hydroxyzine

  • Captopril

  • Chlorothiazide

These are only some drugs that have been noted. Several drugs used to treat hypertension and heart disease can cause weak erections. There are also diuretics and antihistamine drugs that have been linked to erectile dysfunction symptoms. 

What Is The Link Between Erectile Dysfunction And Heart Disease?

Erectile dysfunction is often not a condition on its own. Instead, many healthcare experts consider this a symptom of an underlying cause. With patients who have mental disorders, it may be a symptom of anxiety or depression. The same goes for individuals with physiological health problems. 

One particularly important connection that men need to take note of lies between erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. 

Many studies have been conducted on this particular topic. Strong evidence has also been published, suggesting that there is a greater connection between the two than previously thought. 

According to these studies, erectile dysfunction may sometimes be an early warning sign that a man is developing heart disease. When looking at the potential physiological causes of ED, this connection becomes clearer. 

As previously stated, men with hypertension and atherosclerosis are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction. Another risk factor includes high cholesterol levels. All three of these conditions are considered indicators for a person’s heart disease risk. 

High cholesterol tends to lead to the clogging of arteries. In turn, the patient is at risk of developing atherosclerosis. With this condition, blood flow may be adversely affected. Hypertension is a term that refers to blood pressure levels that are too high. This means the heart essentially has to work overtime to pump blood throughout the body-the increased pressure resulting in damage to the blood vessel walls. 

These conditions are signs that a man is at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. They may also signal a higher risk for certain cardiovascular events, including a myocardial infarction. 

One study looked at the relationship between erectile dysfunction and certain cardiovascular conditions. In this study, only male patients were analyzed. One group of patients had recently undergone bypass surgery. Another group included male patients who were admitted to a hospital after suffering a heart attack. 

Among the men who suffered a heart attack, there was a 64% prevalence of erectile dysfunction symptoms. More than half of the men who had bypass surgery also reported weak erections.

How Can You Lower Your Risk Of Heart Disease?

Men who notice their erections are no longer a rigid or last too short during sex should first consider the relationship between ED and heart disease.

When there is a high risk of heart disease, it becomes vital for men to take appropriate actions. Even healthy men are able to take precautions – ultimately reducing their risk of developing problems with their cardiovascular health as they age. 

The good news is, several strategies can help men reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 

Get a check up: The first step is to get a thorough checkup at a doctor. The reason for this checkup is to help identify any existing risk factors affecting the patient. When there are risk factors present, these should be targeted when the man aims to prevent further complications with their heart health. 

A doctor may detect factors like high cholesterol and hypertension. This gives a man the basic structure to work from. A regular checkup with the doctor can be helpful too. This ensures the patient is able to understand if their current strategies are working. When current vitals are better compared to the previous visit, it means the patient is doing well with their program. 



Blood pressure: Controlling blood pressure levels is one of the most important elements of reducing heart disease risks. This means reducing sodium intake – consider eliminating processed foods and snacks that are filled with added salts. Triglyceride and cholesterol levels should also be kept at a minimum. 

Alcohol: Alcohol has been associated with heart disease, along with tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes does not only affect the lungs. It causes additional complications, including a high risk of coronary heart disease. By limiting alcohol intake and avoiding cigarettes, there is already a significant reduction in the risk of cardiovascular problems. 

Stress: Managing stress should also be an important part of a strategy to reduce cardiovascular risk factors. While acute stress on occasions is normal, men with too much stress can develop serious complications. Chronic stress can affect heart health. It raises blood pressure and causes a higher risk for a heart attack. 

Lifestyle Changes To Prevent Erectile Dysfunction

Heart disease is not the only reason why men may develop erectile dysfunction. While ED is more common in older men, it is important to note that any man can develop this condition. There are, however, methods that can be used to help men reduce the risks of developing erectile dysfunction. 

A healthy lifestyle is the most essential factor in preventing this condition, whether young or old. 

Diet: Eating healthy is important. Men should ensure they eat a diet free of too many saturated fats and avoid eating processed foods. A man should not only focus on eating a heart-healthy diet. Foods consumed should also help to regulate blood sugar levels and prevent weight gain. 

Exercise: Apart from healthy eating, a daily exercise routine is just as critical. Exercise helps to regulate the production of testosterone, ensuring the man does not develop a hormone imbalance. It also builds muscle mass and helps to reduce fat in the body. This is the ideal range of effects men need to reduce their ED risk. 

Sleep: Men also need to focus on healthy sleep. Some studies have confirmed testosterone levels are lower among men who suffer from sleep deprivation. When testosterone levels reduce, libido regulation is altered. This causes a low sex drive. In turn, a man can experience erectile problems. 

Treatment For Erectile Dysfunction

There are treatments available for erectile dysfunction. The most common treatment is the use of a drug like Cialis or Viagra.

While these can be helpful, it is important to focus on underlying causes first. There are many cases where underlying problems are treated – in turn, erectile function improves. 

A doctor can perform several tests to determine why a man may have erectile dysfunction. If there are psychological issues present, the doctor may prescribe appropriate antidepressants to help with depression symptoms. When psychological symptoms improve, erectile dysfunction may start to fade gradually. 

In most cases, tests for cardiovascular risk factors will be done when a man has ED. When a doctor finds any existing risks, such as hypertension, they will target these conditions in a treatment plan. This may include the use of medication that reduces blood pressure levels. 

In patients with diabetes, medication to help regulate blood glucose or insulin levels can help to reduce nerve damage

The doctor may also advise the patient to lose weight if they are currently obese or overweight. The implementation of a diet and exercise plan can help with this. A dietician and fitness professional may be prescribed for the patient. This helps the man get access to a personalized plan for more effective results. 

Conclusion

Erectile dysfunction is a worrisome condition among the male population. The condition leads to poor erectile function in men. A common cause behind ED is considered poor blood flow. This may, in some cases, be a sign of cardiovascular disease.

Men should take action at an early stage of erectile dysfunction. Effective treatments are available for ED symptoms and the underlying cardiovascular diseases behind the condition. Early treatment may assist in preventing the development of serious cardiovascular complications. 

Sources

  1. Cleveland Clinic. (2018) Erectile Dysfunction. [online] Available at: http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/#:~:text=The%20study%20demonstrated%20that%20ED,to%2015%25%20at%20age%2070.&text=Age%20was%20the%20variable%20most%20strongly%20associated%20with%20ED.
  2. International Journal of Impotence Research. (2003) Anxiety and erectile dysfunction: a global approach to ED enhances results and quality of life. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12825100/
  3. The Urologic Clinics of North America. (2007) Depression and erectile dysfunction. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17983896/
  4. Mayo Clinic. Erectile dysfunction. [online] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes/syc-20355776
  5. Healthline. (2017) Is Erectile Dysfunction Psychological? [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/erectile-dysfunction/psychological
  6. MedlinePlus. Drugs that may cause erection problems. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004024.htm
  7. MedlinePlus. How to Prevent Heart Disease. [online] Available at: https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventheartdisease.html

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