Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 9, 2011

What’s the link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease?

I’ve read that men with ED are more likely to develop heart disease. What’s the connection?

answered by
David Sobel, MD, JD on September 9, 2011

Thanks for your great question.

It’s true that many men with erectile dysfunction (ED) also have heart disease (or coronary artery disease). While there’s a strong correlation between the two conditions, a lot of men aren’t aware of it. But the fact is that ED can be an early warning sign of heart disease.

That’s why, when men see their doctors about erection problems, their blood pressure, cholesterol and lipids should be checked. Their blood sugar should also be checked for diabetes or pre-diabetes.

How does heart disease affect erections? Well, erections are all about blood flow to the penis. And heart disease can cause the arteries to become stiff and narrow, which makes it harder for blood to flow throughout the body…including through the small blood vessels that bring blood to the penis.

Men with heart disease and ED are also more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. And one study published by the New England Research Institute found that men with heart disease who also smoke are more likely to be completely impotent. Additionally, research presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology also found that men with heart disease who also have low testosterone levels are more likely to die from heart disease. While researchers don’t know yet if low testosterone causes the heart problems or the other way around, but does appear to be a relationship between the conditions.

So whether you have ED or heart disease, I encourage you to work with your doctor to make sure that any related health issues are being treated and monitored.

Thanks again for sharing your concern, and I wish you good health.

Related info:

David Sobel, MD, JD

Dr. Sobel is a Colorado-based urologist and Director of the Denver Center for Men’s Health. His areas of expertise include men's sexual health and all areas of urology, including urologic oncology, treatment of benign prostatic hypertrophy, stone disease and incontinence. Dr. Sobel was educated at the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, and completed his residency at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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