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4 factors that increase your risk of erectile dysfunction

The relationship between erectile dysfunction and heart disease is really all about blood flow. Just as a heart attack is possible when blood flow to the heart is blocked, erectile function is also impacted by lack of blood flow, leading to erectile dysfunction (ED).

“Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease have many of the same risk factors,” says Druenell Linton, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont. “Cardiovascular disease and its risk factors increase the risk for later erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction may be an early warning sign of future cardiovascular events.”

Studies have shown that in a large majority of men, erectile dysfunction can predate symptoms of heart disease by about five years. The smaller vessels that are crucial for erectile function can be impacted by the same problems that cause heart attack and stroke.

“Men with erectile dysfunction that doesn’t have an obvious cause should be screened for cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors, even if they don’t have other signs of cardiovascular disease,” she says. “Those at high risk should be referred to a cardiologist prior to initiating medical therapy. Those at intermediate risk should be considered for an exercise stress test.”

Risk factors

There are four factors that increase a man’s risk for both erectile dysfunction and heart disease:

Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease and erectile dysfunction. Treating erectile dysfunction is not only a quality of life issue, it also gives men an opportunity to have their heart disease risk factors reviewed and treated by their doctor. If a man has signs of erectile dysfunction, he should see both a urologist and a cardiologist for treatment and evaluation.

Heart attack prevention

Dr. Linton says making heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising more and eating healthier can help improve sexual function in some men with ED. With lifestyle changes, you can also improve your cardiovascular health and your quality of life.

Learn more about the link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease.

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