Perhaps having erectile dysfunction can save your life! A common sexual problem for men is the dreaded erectile dysfunction ("ED"), which affects more than 30 million men in the U.S. But, erectile dysfunction can be a sign that you have a heart problem. Of course, the inability of a men to retain an erection infrequently is not a reason to suspect heart problems or diabetes, but it is an ongoing problem, then, it can significantly affect your quality of life. This is why it is very important for men to talk to their healthcare provider whenever they have an ED problem.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
The definition for erectile dysfunction, means that a man cannot get an erection, nor can he keep an erection. ED affects men between the ages of 40 and 70 due to problems that involve depression, low testosterone, nerve problems, and prescribed medications. However, the most common cause is atherosclerosis, which is a blood vessel problem that is often an early warning sign of heart disease or other circulatory problems. Erectile dysfunction is a complicated issue because it involves hormones, the brain, nerves, blood vessels and a man's emotional state. In order to keep or achieve an erection, these conditions must be present:
- The blood circulation to the penis must be properly flowing
- The nerves to the penis must function properly
- The nerves and the arteries must be stimulated by the brain
Men who are experiencing ED problems are at a greater risk of different types of heart problems, like heart failure, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, ischemic ("IHD") heart disease, and "other" cardiovascular disease. This means that men, even if they never had a heart problem in previous years, are at risk for having any kind of cardiovascular disease.
What Is Atherosclerosis?
The blood vessels of atherosclerosis (more commonly known as hardening of the arteries) are unable to dilate which causes a condition called endothelial dysfunction. Cholesterol builds up in the blood vessel walls and forms plaques, which narrows the vessels and slows down the blood flow. If the plaque is not attended to and begins to become advanced, it can stop the blood from passing through, causing a heart attack. Atherosclerosis affects the blood vessels that work with the heart, but also the entire human body. Atherosclerosis causes the chest pains, heart attacks, strokes, pain in the legs and ED. Believe it or not, atherosclerosis most often affects the penile area first, then the heart and the brain, and then the legs. There are completely three stages of erectile dysfunction. The first stage of atherosclerosis is the endothelial dysfunction which is the culprit that affects the penis first, which marks this problem for men as a warning sign that a stroke or a heart attack can possibly occur within the next couple of years.
How Do I Prevent a Heart Attack?
Contact your doctor because if you have the risk factors for heart disease because of erectile dysfunction, your healthcare provider will look for atherosclerosis that can clog coronary arteries. Your physician will conduct a stress test, followed by an angiogram or cardiac catheterization, which involves entering a blood vessel in the leg or the wrist, with an instrument that goes into the heart to visualize the arteries. With these procedures, atherosclerosis can be treated by inflating a balloon or placing a stent in the coronary blood vessels to keep them open. There are also other treatment plans, which can be discussed with your doctor, based on your specific ED/heart problem.
Present Clinical Studies
A 2013 study tracked 95,000 men to see if there was a correlation between ED and heart disease. At the end of this study, over 7,800 men had to be admitted to the hospital for heart-related problems. Mayo Clinic researchers, Harvard University researchers and many other trials and studies can't conclusively report that ED would cause heart problems or vice versa. It is simply that the two variables (ED and heart problems) are too closely connected, due to problems in the vasculature which is linked to both atherosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction. Professional healthcare providers continue to remind men that any erection problems should be addressed immediately to prevent a heart attack within the next five years.
Evidence continues to mount that ED can mean that men are headed toward a serious disease if left untreated. Erectile dysfunction is a frequent sign and occurrence of atherosclerosis which is a cause of heart attacks due to clogged blood vessels to coronary arteries. Erectile dysfunction usually happens between 3 to 5 years before a heart disease, therefore after ED is diagnosed, there is time for men to get treated for atherosclerosis, so that their quality of life and that of their loved ones, is not interrupted. There are treatments for atherosclerosis, which includes dietary changes, adding a light daily exercise regimen, natural supplements or prescribed medications, if needed.