Partners in Health
Sexual problems might mean you have a broken heart, literally. The most common sexual problem in men is erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction affects >30% of men between 40 and 70 years of age. There are several different causes of ED, including depression, low testosterone, neurological problems, and some medications, such as beta blocker but the most common cause is a problem with the blood vessels called atherosclerosis.
Erectile dysfunction is frequently a sign of atherosclerosis, that can be the first clue to heart disease in men. It usually comes 3 to 5 years before a heart attack, so after ED is diagnosed, there is time to treat atherosclerosis and prevent a heart attack.
Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease
Decreased sexual activity and function are common in patients with CVD and are often interrelated to anxiety and depression. In fact research has proved that there is a strong link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease. Studies have shown that if a man has ED, he has a greater risk of having heart disease. For instance, in one study, 57% of men who had bypass surgery and 64% of men hospitalized for a heart attack had had ED.
Several having ED can predict that a man will probably have heart disease symptoms within five years. In fact, having ED is as much a risk factor for heart disease as a history of smoking or a family history of coronary artery disease.
The Stockholm Heart Epidemiology Programme (SHEEP) study of post-MI patients (50% women) found that those who were sedentary had a higher risk of MI with sexual activity (relative risk 4.4) than did those who were physically active (relative risk 0.7).
How is the Heart and ED Related?
Deposition of cholesterol in the arteries causing atherosclerosis is taken as the most important reason for ED as the plaque formation reduces the blood flow in the penis, thereby affecting the erection process. However the latest studies show that ED is also due to the dysfunction of the inner lining of the blood vessels (endothelium) and smooth muscle. This causes inadequate blood supply to the heart and the penis which also aids in arthrosclerosis. Hence ED and heart disease are found to be inter related.
What to do?
If you are suffering from ED or heart disease , it is best to discuss your concerns with a specialist - for the heart a cardiologist and for the ED a urologist