Cardiologists and urologists both recognize that erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign for cardiovascular disease. Some doctors even claim that erections in men are used to gauge overall wellness. Vessels in the penis are small, less than 2mm in diameter, they are easily clogged and constricted. They are the first to feel the pressure of a more serious condition, so to speak.
How do clogged vessels lead to Erectile Dysfunction?
The extremely small nature of these vessels allows them to become clogged with plaque easily. Clogging these vessels with plaque leads to further narrowing the vessel and decreases their ability to carry blood to the smooth tissue of the penis.
Most patients complaining about erectile dysfunction symptoms, especially if they are younger than 50, are simultaneously referred to a cardiologist for further examination. Being that insurers are now covering this referral visit speaks to the truth of erectile dysfunction perhaps indicating cardiovascular disease. Only several years ago insurers saw erectile dysfunction as a lifestyle issue and completely unrelated to heart health.
Unfortunately, some men are not as lucky as others. The main artery to the pelvic region is called the Penutal Artery ( link to wiki). 30-35% of men have only one of these arteries whereas others have two. Imagine blowing up a balloon with only one lung instead of two…If these vessels are being clogged, this could very well mean other vessels will experience the same fate. Just as the surrounding tissue of the penis becomes affected from lack of blood, the same can be said for the heart or brain. At times these conditions result in heart attack, chest pain, stroke or dementia.
Cardiac Diseases and Erectile Dysfunction share Key risk factors
In other blogs we talk about how inflammation can lead to endothelial dysfunction, you can read more on that here (link to food blog). Here is a simple Venn diagram that shows just how many risk factors are shared between heart disease and erectile dysfunction. This diagram is linear ..one factor doesn’t necessarily cause the other, but each exacerbates the other and incites more risk to both cardiac disease and erectile dysfunction.