Why Do Patients With Heart Disease Suffer From Erectile Dysfunction?

Yes, there is a strong link between erectile dysfunction (ED) and heart disease. The two conditions, while seemingly unrelated, have several overlapping risk factors, causes, and prevention strategies.

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction or impotence is the inability to achieve and sustain an erection suitable for sexual intercourse. The condition is not considered normal at any age. Premature ejaculation, infertility, or low sex drive are not the same as erectile dysfunction, though one or more of these conditions may be associated with it.

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease refers to several different conditions that affect the heart including coronary artery disease (CAD), heart arrhythmias, heart failure, heart valve disease, pericardial disease, heart muscle disease, and congenital heart disease.

The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease. CAD occurs when the coronary arteries (the blood vessels that bring oxygenated blood to the heart) become blocked or otherwise damaged and cannot supply enough blood to the heart. This condition often occurs as a result of an accumulation of plaque in the arteries and can cause severe chest pain or a heart attack.

What Is The Connection Between ED And Heart Disease?

Because erections require healthy blood flow to the penis, when the body’s blood circulation system is compromised, a man may experience ED. Heart disease is also caused by blood circulation problems, so ED can be an early sign of current or future heart disease. Since ED can be an early indicator of CAD, men with ED may benefit from being screened for CAD. However, not all cases of ED are suggestive of future heart problems, because ED can also be caused by trauma to the penis or psychological or relational factors.

Historically, experts attributed the cause of coexisting ED and heart disease to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Now, medical researchers have found that the two conditions are more likely linked to endothelial dysfunction, a condition in which the inner lining of the blood vessels (the endothelium) constricts and cannot properly dilate to allow for easy blood flow.

How Much Cholesterol Is Too Much?

A healthy cholesterol level depends on a variety of factors, including:

• your level of HDL (good) cholesterol compared with your level of LDL (bad) cholesterol
• your total cholesterol
• your number of risk factors for heart disease
• your age and activity level
• your current health status

Excess LDL cholesterol in your blood gets deposited in arteries, the blood vessels that feed the heart and brain. These deposits can join with other substances to form plaque, a thick, hard deposit in the blood vessel that leads to atherosclerosis. Plaque can narrow the passageway inside the artery and pinch off the flow of blood to the heart muscle, and to the penis.

How Can I lower My Cholesterol?

Here are a few tips for lowering cholesterol:

Eat fewer fats and fried foods. Choose non-fat and low-fat versions of foods, if available.
When eating fats, select unsaturated fats. (Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature; vegetable oils, for example. Avoid tropical oils, such as palm and coconut oil and any fat that is solid at room temperature.)
Choose fish and poultry more often than red meat.
Limit total amount of meat, fish, poultry, and low-fat cheeses to 7 ounces or fewer each day.
If you smoke, quit.
Lose extra weight.
Eat more soluble fiber. Good sources are fruits, beans, peas, and oats.
Limit egg yolks to no more than three per week. (Egg whites are fat-free.)

What Are The Common Risk Factors Of ED And Heart Disease?

Heart disease and ED have several risk factors in common including:
Cigarette smoking
Excessive alcohol consumption
Poor diet
Lack of exercise
High blood pressure
High cholesterol
Low testosterone levels
Increasing age


If your doctor thinks you might be at risk of heart disease, consider making lifestyle changes. 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 not at all. More-serious signs and symptoms of heart disease could lead to further tests or treatment.

If you have both erectile dysfunction and heart disease, talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you take certain heart medications, especially nitrates, it is not safe to use many of the medications used to treat erectile dysfunction.