The link between cardiovascular disease and sexual dysfunction is nothing new - especially not in men.
In fact, researchers have known for years that erectile dysfunction is disproportionately common among men with cardiovascular disease or risk factors for cardiovascular disease like high blood pressure and diabetes.
While there are many causes of ED, including psychological ones like depression, in most cases it can be traced to vascular problems. So the question is - are you experiencing erectile dysfunction because there's something wrong with your heart?
Where does the shared mechanism linking cardiovascular disease to erectile dysfunction originate?
It’s believed that the association between cardiovascular and erectile dysfunction originates in the thin layer of cells that line your blood vessels called the endothelium. A number of risk factors, including high blood pressure
, high cholesterol
and cigarette smoking, can prevent cells in the endothelium from releasing nitric oxide. This comprises the blood vessels’ ability to dilate, which can lead to both
A number of factors can prevent cells in the endothelium from releasing nitric oxide, including high blood pressure
, high cholesterol
and cigarette smoking. When this happens, the ability of blood vessels to dilate is compromised and can lead to both atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) and erectile dysfunction.
Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of coronary artery disease, which can affect the arteries that pump blood to the penis just as much as it can affect the arteries that surround the heart. That isn’t all though – endothelial problems can also prevent the smooth muscle
in the penis from relaxing properly, which can make it difficult to sustain erections.
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Experts believe that erectile dysfunction may actually precede cardiovascular problems
For many years, experts thought that erectile dysfunction was just a side effect of cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Now, they believe that erectile dysfunction may actually precede cardiovascular problems. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
described erectile dysfunction as a “harbinger of cardiovascular events”.
This study, which looked at more than 4,000 men with symptoms of cardiovascular disease of erectile dysfunction, found that men who subsequently experienced erectile dysfunction almost 50% more likely than those who hadn’t experienced cardiovascular problems within seven years. This suggests that looking fine doesn’t necessarily mean you have a healthy ticker.
The bottom line? It’s important that you talk to your doctor about any sexual dysfunction, because it could signal cardiovascular disease.