Posted on May 01, 2020, 2 p.m.
Erectile dysfunction may be more than a sexual problem, it could also be an early sign of cardiovascular disease resulting from clogged arteries or CVD which can impede the blood flow necessary to create an erection, according to research.
Men having an issue with sexual performance or those suffering with erectile dysfunction may be wise to consider getting their heart health checked out, as a recent study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society suggests that ED could also be a sign of a man’s risk for cardiovascular disease and an even an early death; this risk exists regardless of testosterone levels.
ED also known as impotence is typically characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis during sexual arousal and/or activity; it occurs more often in older men and it is more often linked to low levels of testosterone. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to a higher risk of death in middle aged-older men in previous studies, but the results have been inconsistent.
Dr. Leen Antonio of KU Leuven-University Hospitals in Belgium, the lead researcher on the new study, examined the relationship between hormone levels and male sexual function, to find that having erectile dysfunction is a bigger issue than having low testosterone levels.
“As both vascular disease and low testosterone levels can influence erectile function, sexual symptoms can be an early sign for increased cardiovascular risk and mortality,” said Antonio.
Data was analyzed from close to 2,000 men between the ages of 40-79 in five medical centers to examine the relationship between their hormone measurements and sexual function. 25% of the study participants died during the average follow up period of 12.4 years; of which those with normal testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction had a 51% increased risk of death than those without. Men with low testosterone levels and sexual symptoms were also found to have an increased risk of death compared to those with normal levels and no sexual symptoms.
The increased risk of early death was found in men with sexual symptoms including erectile dysfunction and poor morning erections, but this association was not found with having a low libido and a higher risk of early death.
Erectile dysfunction may result from clogged arteries or cardiovascular disease which can impede the blood flow required to create an erection, and this is why ED regardless of testosterone levels can indicate a risk for heart disease and early death.
Blood vessels that provide blood for an erection are smaller than the coronary arteries, which means that if there is a buildup of plaque in the arteries, blood flow in the penile vessels may be affected earlier than in the coronary arteries, according to Dr. Antonio.
There are also other possible causes of erectile dysfunction which includes but is not limited to certain medications, smoking, alcohol consumption, temperatures, certain conditions, sleeping disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, illicit drugs, illnesses, accidents, nerve damage, and nerve problems from prostate surgery.
Erectile dysfunction can be treated and prevented for some by practicing a healthy lifestyle which includes exercise, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and following a healthy balanced diet. Treating risk factors for heart disease such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol may help to prevent sexual dysfunction, according to research.
Dr. Antonio suggests that sexual symptoms could be an early warning sign of a poor or worsening health status, as well as an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and mortality; this means that it is important to discuss sexual symptoms with your physician to identify and treat other cardiovascular risk factors or apparent cardiovascular disease.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.