Everything about Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease

Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease

Erectile Dysfunction or ED, affects more than 30 million men in the world between 40 and 70 years of age. ED might arise from a number of reasons. These reasons can be both physical as well as psychological in nature. 

The biggest hurdle in the treatment of the symptoms of erectile dysfunction or ED is its correct diagnosis. Identifying the exact cause or causes behind ED can often be another underlying medical condition and much of the time it happens to be some kind of heart disease. Hence ED is often considered a hint of underlying heart disease.   

How are Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease correlated or linked? 

ED is a common phenomenon among men who have coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart and impairing the functioning of blood vessels. 

Earlier, the buildup of plaques in the arteries of our body or atherosclerosis was believed to be the reason why erectile dysfunction frequently follows heart problems. The reason is the plaque buildup reduces the blood flow toward the penis, making it extremely difficult to attain an erection. 

However, experts now believe that erectile dysfunction following heart problems is more due to the dysfunction of the inner lining of the blood vessels or endothelium and smooth muscles. Endothelial dysfunction causes inadequate blood supply to the heart and impaired blood flow to the penis and aids in the development of atherosclerosis. Hence, healthy blood flow becomes a must-have necessity for erectile function. 

One of the first stages of coronary heart disease is endothelial dysfunction, a condition in which the blood vessels cannot dilate or open up properly. Endothelial dysfunction often affects the blood vessels of the penis first. In many cases, ED might be the first clue that something is amiss. 

Some important points on the correlation between Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease 

  • ED becomes common with advancing age and shares risk factors and pathophysiological mechanisms with cardiovascular disease (CVD). 
  • ED is highly prevalent in men with CVD and often precedes a CVD event by 2 to 5 years and is a prominent sign of widespread vascular disease. 
  • ED predicts cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality, especially in men with an intermediate CVD risk score who need further evaluation for CVD.

What are the treatment options available for Erectile Dysfunction caused by Heart Disease?

In case you have been diagnosed with a risk of heart disease, try to make certain lifestyle changes after consulting an authorized doctor. It has been seen that any lifestyle change that improves heart health improves penis health, too. 

Increase your physical activity, maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking, and drink alcohol only in moderation or do not drink at all. More-serious signs and symptoms of heart disease could lead to further tests or treatments. 

In case you have both erectile dysfunction and heart disease, an authorized specialist about the right treatment options. People should refrain from self-medications or random pieces of advice from laymen in order to avoid adverse reactions. 

  • Some CVD medications, such as β-blockers and diuretics, have a deleterious effect on erectile function, and hence physicians should be aware of these adverse effects. 
  • Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors are not only safe for the cardiovascular system but also seem to have beneficial effects on the vasculature that could explain promising results in prognostic studies. 
  • Testosterone replacement therapy has shown conflicting results in terms of CVD risk and should be administered with close monitoring for possible adverse effects.

In case someone takes certain heart medications, specifically those based on nitrates, it is not safe to use many of the medications used to treat erectile dysfunction. Such a person should be highly cautious about taking any of the PDE5 inhibitors.

This is because the combination of these two kinds of medications could cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. Researchers recommend avoiding nitrates for about 24 to 48 hours after taking ED medication. Examples of ED medications that are PDE5 inhibitors include: 

Which Heart Medicines cause ED?

In addition to inadequate blood flow to the penile region, some medications to treat high blood pressure can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. 

ED can be considered a common side effect of BP drugs like thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics, and beta-blockers, all of which can decrease blood flow to the penis and make it difficult to get an erection. 

However, other BP drugs, such as alpha-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin-receptor blockers, rarely cause ED.

How strong is the connection between Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease?

It is true that erectile dysfunction does not always indicate an underlying heart problem. 

However, it is suggested that men with erectile dysfunction who have no other obvious cause, such as trauma, or have no symptoms of heart problems, should be screened for heart disease before starting any treatment of ED.

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