Your heart and erectile dysfunction: a close relationship

heart health erectile dysfunctionAn erection occurs when the brain, as a result of physical or psychological stimulation, sends signals to the penis that cause its blood vessels to relax. Blood flow to the penis increases, and blood becomes trapped within the corpora cavernosa, which expands and hardens, producing an erection.

Blood flow is central to achieving and maintaining erections. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is sometimes related to problems with circulation.

There are many reasons men get erectile dysfunction, and circulatory problems, although fairly common, are not the only reason.

Erectile dysfunction and circulation

High blood pressure, raised cholesterol and smoking can all damage the inner lining of arteries. Once damaged, cholesterol and other substances accumulate along the arterial walls creating a build-up of plaque and narrowing. This narrowing of the arteries is known as atherosclerosis and it can lead to reduced circulation associated with erectile dysfunction. It can also lead to a stroke and other cardiovascular conditions.

Prevention

A healthy lifestyle is the first step to avoiding heart problems. Stress, smoking, poor diet, not getting enough exercise; all of these are factors that can lead to atherosclerosis, and all can be avoided by making adjustments to your lifestyle.

Obesity can be a factor leading to heart disease. Beginning an exercise regimen and losing weight are important. When it comes to your diet, plenty of fruits and vegetables, low sodium and reducing alcohol intake can significantly reduce the risk of heart problems and reduce the risk of ED.

If you are over the age of forty, a check-up with your doctor is recommended to ensure your cardiovascular system is healthy.

Treatment

Atherosclerosis is not the only circulatory issue that can cause problems obtaining and maintaining an erection. If you are experiencing erectile dysfunction, it is important to visit your general practitioner before starting any kind of treatment. A doctor can carry out an examination, and order tests, and can advise you as to the correct medication for your specific condition. Erectile dysfunction tablets are often prescribed, although lifestyle changes, and sometime counselling, may also be needed.

The most widely prescribed ED tablets (PDE 5 inhibitors – Viagra/sildenafil, Levitra, Cialis and Spedra) are not suitable for men with low blood pressure, angina, retinitis pigmentosa, or men who have had a recent heart attack or stroke, or for men who take nitrate based medication to treat a pre-existing heart condition.

Your sexual health and your heart are linked. Looking after your arteries and circulatory system from a young age can reduce health issues down the line. It may prevent ED, extend your lifespan, and improve your quality of life.

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