Even though it’s not the most easily discussed health issue, erectile dysfunction is an important symptom that men should discuss with their doctors.
Erectile dysfunction is an early warning sign for heart disease. Even mild erectile dysfunction carries a much higher risk of developing heart disease. While not all erectile dysfunction is a sign of this, it still should be taken very seriously, prompting a complete work up for heart disease. Like many chronic health conditions, if treated early it can even be stopped or reversed.
Heart disease is more properly known as cardiovascular disease – because it affects the blood vessels throughout the body in addition to the heart. In its early stages, symptoms of cardiovascular disease may show up in the smaller arteries of the body first – such as those in the penis and kidneys. (High blood pressure is a sign of vascular disease in the kidneys.) As these small arteries become blocked, blood flow is limited, and this leads to the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction can have other causes (spending too much time on a bike seat, stress, and relationship problems), but the most common reason is cardiovascular disease. Popular drugs like Viagra are offered as a simple solution, however like many medications it only masks the problem and doesn’t address the cause.
Men with erectile dysfunction should strongly consider getting a complete workup for cardiovascular disease including expanded cholesterol and triglyceride testing, a carotid ultrasound, and radical dietary changes (eating a very low sugar diet) to start. Don’t let your doctor blow you of and just write a prescription for Viagra!
One non-cardiovascular cause of erectile dysfunction is a lack of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide (NO) isn’t “laughing gas”, nor is it rocket car fuel, but a chemical made inside our blood vessels that causes them to relax and open up. Supplementing with the amino acid arginine is a good way to increase NO levels, as arginine is used to make NO in the vessels.
Cardiovascular health is important for your heart, but also the other organs in your body – it isn’t only about a heart attack. Erectile dysfunction is an important symptom, or your body’s way of telling you something may be off in your cardiovascular system. Don’t hesitate to bring this up with your doctor, and figure out the root cause!