coronary artery disease and erectile dysfunction

ED and Prediction of Coronary Artery Disease

Thursday 8th of February 2018

The human body is an integral mechanism and a disruption of the functioning of one organ or system inevitably leads to problems with other organs. It is known that erectile dysfunction (impotence or ED) can be a sign of other disorders in the body, including cardiovascular diseases. Below we will try to find out whether ED can be a predictor of coronary disease.

ED – Description and Causes

In the modern sense, ED is the inability to get and (or) maintain an adequate erection of the penis, which limits or makes impossible a satisfactory sexual intercourse.

Physicians distinguish psychogenic, organic and mixed ED. Whereas earlier the main cause of the onset of ED was considered to be various psychological problems (this view takes root in the theory of Freud's psychoanalysis), it is now believed that 80% of ED cases is of organic nature arising as a complication of various somatic diseases. ED is often mixed, that is caused by both psychological and organic factors.

Organic risk factors of ED include:

  • neurotransmitter disorders at the level of the spinal cord or brain, trauma, myelodysplasia of the spine, damage of the intervertebral discs;
  • diabetes (peripheral neuropathy);
  • Peyronie's disease (penile fibrosis);
  • hormonal deficiency (low testosterone levels), etc.

In addition, heart diseases can be possible causes of erectile dysfunction. Among them there is a coronary artery disease.

It is important: Currently, the main method of treating erectile problems is taking drugs of class PDE5 inhibitors. The most famous of them is Viagra, whose appearance in 1998 marked a new era in the treatment of ED. Now the great competitors of the original drug are Viagra generics, for example, Canadian Viagra. In addition, popular PDE5 inhibitors are Cialis, Levitra, and Avanafil.

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

The inflow of blood to the heart is carried out via the coronary arteries. With insufficient blood supply, the heart lacks oxygen and nutrients. The pathological narrowing of the lumen of the coronary vessels, which is called coronary atherosclerosis, arises from the deposition of fatty plaques on the walls of the vessels. But this deposition is usually preceded by damage to coronary arteries’ inner layer, which can happen even in childhood.

Narrowing or blockage of the vessels causes a worsening of cardiac function and the development of coronary disease. The severity of the disease is directly related to the number of affected vessels and the amount of cholesterol-containing deposits.

According to Mayo Clinic, the risk factors for the disease are usually as follows:

  1. Ageing. Getting older leads to greater risk of vessel damaging.
  2. Family history. People whose close relatives suffered from coronary disease are at increased risk of being affected by this ailment. The risk is higher if one’s brother (father) developed it before age 55, or sister (mother) was diagnosed with it before 65.
  3. High arterial pressure. Uncontrolled arterial pressure can lead to thickening of the arterial walls and narrowing of their lumen.
  4. Smoking. Persons who smoke are at a much bigger risk of coronary disease occurrence than those who do not smoke. Tobacco has many negative effects on the cardiovascular system, including suppression of HDL («good») cholesterol, deterioration of oxygen delivery, increase in arterial pressure, etc. (N. A. Rigotti, R.C. Pasternak, 1996). All Stop-Smoking topics at this page:
  5. Elevated cholesterol. Elevated rates of cholesterol in the blood lead to the deposition of plaques on the walls of the arteries. This is primarily associated with increased "bad" cholesterol (LDL). A low level of "good" cholesterol can be a sign of atherosclerotic disease.
  6. Diabetes. The presence of diabetes indicates an increased risk of developing the disease. These two diseases have similar risk factors, such as hypertension and overweight.
  7. Excess weight & obesity. Excess pounds in the body lead to triggering other risk factors for the disease.
  8. Stress. Acute and/or permanent stress may lead to artery walls damage.
  9. Lack of physical activity. Inactivity may lead to coronary disease through different physiological mechanisms, which relate to negative effects on arterial pressure, serum lipoprotein profiles, and glucose metabolism (F. C. Bijnen and others, 1994).

When untreated, the disease can be the cause of angina, heart attack, heart failure & arrhythmia.

Can ED Predict Coronary Artery Disease in Males?

As you might have guessed, theoretically, worsening of the circulatory system in the body caused by coronary disease can adversely affect erectile function in men.

What does science say about this?

According to a study by G. Jackson et al. (2010), a significant proportion of male persons with ED have early signs of coronary disease, this group is under risk of developing a more severe coronary disease than those people who do not have erectile problems. The time interval between the onset of ED symptoms of ED and the appearance of symptoms of coronary disease is usually 2 to 3 years. In addition, in 3–5 years after the first ED manifestations, cardiovascular events, like heart attack, can develop. Scientists state that this interval can be used to reduce the risks of worsening coronary disease.

Measures aimed at risk reduction include:

  • low-fat & low-salt nutrition with sufficient amount of fruit, veggies & whole grains;
  • regular but moderate (50–70% of a person’s maximum heart rate) physical activity according to the recommendations of the attending physician;
  • maintaining normal bodyweight;
  • reducing stress;
  • quitting smoking, etc.

What Conclusions Can be Drawn?

If you suffer from ED for no apparent reason, that is, you have good psychological health, you do not have diabetes, etc., you should check your blood cholesterol rates and undergo diagnostic testing, including electrocardiogram and heart scan, as suggested by your doctor. It is strongly recommended that this be done for those who experience suspicious symptoms, like pain in chest & shortness of breath. We’re all familiar with the universal saying (the Benjamin Franklin axiom) that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sometimes ED can become a predictor of coronary disease and allow doctors to prescribe early treatment for it.

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