Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease

Erectile dysfunction, commonly referred to as ED or impotence, is the inability to achieve and sustain an erection suitable for sexual intercourse. ED is considered very common and affects roughly 30 million men in the United States. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is often associated with heart disease because both present symptoms of reduced blood flow to the penis. However, the connection between erectile dysfunction and heart disease is more than just a coincidence. 

Erectile Dysfunction And Heart Disease

Many assume that ED is purely psychological. However, coronary heart disease decreases blood flow to areas of the body. Strong and lasting erections rely on good blood flow to the penis. Alliance Urology understands that not being able to achieve erection comes with its fair share of complications and some that may directly impact your heart health. It’s essential to understand your body and how erectile dysfunction and heart disease are associated. 

What Causes An Erection?

For a male to achieve an erection, three conditions must occur:

  1. The nerves in the penis must be properly functioning
  2. There must be adequate blood circulation to the penis
  3. Stimulus from the brain

And although failure to achieve an erection is considered normal on occasion, when a man cannot reach a full erection more than 50% of the time, it often means there is an underlying physical or psychological disorder that needs to be treated. 

The Connection Between ED And Heart Disease

The connection between erectile dysfunction and heart disease has an overlapping clinical presentation to reduce blood flow to the penis. Coronary heart disease is the buildup of plaque in the arteries of your body, reducing blood flow throughout the body.

Other contributing factors now suggest erectile dysfunction preceding heart problems is more often due to the dysfunction of the inner lining of the blood vessels (endothelium) and smooth muscle. Because heart disease can change your blood flow in different ways, if your heart isn’t pumping strongly enough, blood might not reach every part of your body. Because of this, the connection makes itself present as ED and can often be one of the first signs that you might have an underlying heart condition.

Treatment Options

The treatment for ED begins with checking on your heart and vascular health, as erectile dysfunction is a frequent sign of clogged or narrowed blood vessels. According to AHA Journals, the most common treatment for ED is a pill, such as Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), or Levitra (vardenafil). These medications allow your blood vessels to supply blood to the penis. 

Risk Factors

Many lifestyle choices can lead to ED, such as smoking, drinking, drug use, lack of exercise, obesity, and stress. Similarly, the above behaviors are the same that put you at risk for heart disease. Eliminating some or all of these behaviors mitigates your chance of a heart condition. Other non-lifestyle factors that are a possible cause of ED include:

  • Injury to the penis
  • Operations to the prostate, bladder, and colon cancer
  • Chronic illness and certain medications
  • Scar tissues in the penis (Peyronie’s disease)

It is important to remember that erectile dysfunction does not always coexist with an underlying heart condition. However, research suggests erectile dysfunction often occurs 3 to 5 years before a heart attack. ED should be considered a potential early warning sign to promote cardiac wellness.

Discussing sexual health, including erectile dysfunction and heart disease, with your doctor, can be challenging yet can uncover underlying diseases that can be treated when caught early. Alliance Urology is here to guide you and help with a treatment plan that is best for you. Our team has years of experience treating issues pertaining to the urinary tract, bladder, and male reproductive system. For questions and inquiries, please call our office in Greensboro at (336) 274-1114.