Erectile Dysfunction (ED) As It Relates to the Heart
As we age, many bodily and sexual functions begin to decline. None, however, strike more terror in a man than erectile dysfunction. While this is a prevalent condition, it is one that men are often embarrassed by, and very often because of that, do not seek appropriate treatment. To address the embarrassment and concerns of many men, several online mail-order options have been created, promising patients a discrete consultation and getting their ED medications without going to the pharmacy.
However, there is a significant concern that some of these men’s health services do not address — the heart.
It may seem strange to link erectile dysfunction with the heart, however, there is a good reason to do so as recent hypotheses have sought to reclassify ED, at least partly, as a vascular disorder. This is because erectile function is entirely based on blood flow to the penis, and anything that compromises that blood flow can lead to ED. One of the most common blood flow issues that middle-to-older men experience is atherosclerosis or the narrowing of blood vessels.
How Does Atherosclerosis Affect the Penis?
While we relate atherosclerosis with the arteries feeding blood and oxygen to the heart, known as the coronary arteries, the arteries in the rest of the body are also affected by the disease. All these arteries have different diameters, with the one feeding male sexual organs being one of the smallest in diameter. The peripheral arteries are somewhat larger, and the coronary larger still. The larger diameter arteries are thought to better tolerate the buildup of plaque. Therefore, if atherosclerosis develops, it stands to reason that it would first affect the male sexual organs.
This phenomenon has been studied, and data has started to show that many patients suffering from a heart attack or significant blockage of the coronary arteries experience erectile dysfunction in the months and years prior.
Of course, this does not mean that having ED equates to future heart disease. However, if ED is worsening, it may be prudent for men to assume that they have some degree of atherosclerosis and should visit their cardiologist for a risk evaluation and screening.
If you believe you may have a heightened risk of heart disease, if your diet and exercise habits have not been great for several years or even decades, or if you have a history of heart disease in the family, we encourage you to visit our office and learn more about whether screening for heart disease is right for you. It may be essential if you also have erectile dysfunction. We could work closely with your urologist or men’s health specialist to evaluate your cardiovascular function and begin treatment if necessary.