When a man experiences erectile dysfunction (ED), the last thing he may be thinking about is his heart. But, studies have shown a direct link between heart disease and ED that necessitates a closer look at cardiovascular issues as a major factor in sexual dysfunction.
Since February is Heart Health Month, if ED is a problem, having a complete cardiovascular workup can be a lifesaver.
“Erectile dysfunction may be a warning sign of cardiovascular disease,” warns Aaron Weinberg, M.D. a urologist at Tennessee Urology. “It is evident from several studies that ED is not just a sexual issue; it could be an early indicator of heart disease, and in many cases, may be a warning sign of a future cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke.”
ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION – NOT JUST A SEXUAL ISSUE
Physicians at Tennessee Urology say that men experiencing erectile dysfunction should have a thorough medical evaluation to rule out cardiovascular disease as a cause of an erectile problem. Vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), hypertension (high blood pressure) and high cholesterol can affect the blood vessels by restricting blood flow to the heart, brain, and to the penis, in the case of ED.
“Vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis affect not only the blood vessels supplying the heart but also blood vessels that supply the penis. Ongoing erectile dysfunction is often a sign of an underlying health condition that should be addressed with a physician not just for sexual reasons, but for overall health,” says Dr. Siegelbaum.
UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS OFTEN LINKED TO ED
Dr. Weinberg adds that in addition to cardiovascular disease, other medical conditions are also linked to erectile dysfunction including diabetes, obesity, and even sleep apnea. Stress, psychological issues, and certain medications can also lead to erectile problems, so a thorough evaluation by a physician is always recommended to identify the cause and determine the best treatment options for ED, as well as any underlying medical issues.
– Marc Siegelbaum, M.D.
ED- An Early Warning Sign of Other Diseases?
Drs. Weinberg and Siegelbaum add that erectile dysfunction can be more than just a sexual issue – it could be an early indicator of heart disease.
In addition to cardiovascular disease, other underlying medical concerns may be causing ED:
- Diabetes which causes damage to the nerves or blood vessels that control the flow of blood to the penis and cause an erection.
- Obesity can cause erectile dysfunction by causing hormonal abnormalities (such as low testosterone or hypogonadism), decreased sex drive or libido, or by negatively affecting blood vessels and resulting in vascular disease.
- Psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, and stress can also cause ED and temporary erectile issues.
- Some medications can interfere with blood flow to the penis, especially those for high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues.