Consider two eye-opening statistics: Nearly half of adults in the United States have some type of cardiovascular disease and one in 10 men struggle with long-term erectile dysfunction. There is some overlap in these numbers as emerging research confirms the link between cardiovascular issues and erectile dysfunction (ED).
Our extensive team prides itself on providing the best possible men’s health care here at Arizona Urology, and we believe that education plays an invaluable role in our mission.
With that in mind, here’s what we know about the connection between cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction.
The role blood flow plays in your erection
To better understand how your cardiovascular system can affect your ability to achieve and maintain an erection, let’s quickly review what happens, physiologically speaking, when you get an erection.
Upon sensory stimulation, your brain and the nerves in your penis work together to create an erection. First, your brain sends signals that cause the muscles in your corpora cavernosa to relax (your corpora cavernosa are two chambers that run the length of your penis). Once these muscles are relaxed, more blood can flow in and fill the chambers, and the blood is kept in place by the membranes around your corpora cavernosa called tunica albuginea. All these actions are what enable an erection.
When the muscles surrounding your corpora caverna contract again, it stops the inflow of blood into your penis and encourages an outflow, which signals the end of the erection.
While there are many causes of ED, we offer this description so that you can see the integral role that your blood flow plays in your erections.
Cardiovascular disease and ED
If there’s a problem in your cardiovascular system that hampers the flow of blood in your body, erectile dysfunction is a common side effect.
There are many types of cardiovascular diseases that can interfere with your circulation, but we want to concentrate on two issues here:
This condition is caused by a buildup of plaques in your arteries that causes thickening and hardening of the blood vessel, interfering with its ability to deliver blood. One of the more common cardiovascular diseases, coronary artery disease, occurs when the arteries that supply blood to your heart are blocked by plaque buildup.
When it comes to atherosclerosis and ED, one study found that the incidence of ED in people with coronary artery disease was between 42% and 57%.
Another issue that can lead to ED is endothelial dysfunction, a condition in which the large blood vessels around your heart constrict instead of open, which can greatly interfere with your overall circulation. This condition is also called nonobstructive coronary disease since there are no blockages in your blood vessels. Instead, blood flow is compromised by a malfunction between the linings of the vessels and the muscles.
While these two conditions may be different, they both share the same risk factors, which include cardiovascular diseases like hypertension and high cholesterol.
The bottom line is that ED can be very much linked to your cardiovascular health, so much so that ED may be one of the first signs that there’s a problem with your heart health.
The best way to determine what’s behind your ED is to schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Goodyear, Glendale, Gilbert, or Phoenix, Arizona. Simply click here to get started.