Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular problems: what is the link?
Erectile dysfunction, i.e. difficulty in developing an erection or maintaining it for the full duration of intercourse, is a fairly common andrological and sexual disorder
It usually affects men over 70 (about 50%) and over 50 (more than 30%), as well as younger individuals, especially in association with metabolic and cardiovascular problems.
Erectile dysfunction, in addition to causing psychological distress to patients suffering from it, is also an early warning bell for the possible presence of atherosclerotic pathologies.
For this reason, it is important that patients who develop this disorder refer without delay to the andrologist specialist, who will indicate the most appropriate treatment and assess whether to prescribe diagnostic and in-depth examinations.
Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disorders
Erectile dysfunction is mainly considered a symptom, rather than a disorder in its own right.
It develops either in connection with psychological disorders, such as stress or problems with the partner, or in association with metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors.
We are therefore talking about pathologies such as heart attack and ischemic heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, but also incorrect lifestyles such as cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse.
In general, it is possible that a patient suffering from erectile dysfunction is also predisposed to atherosclerosis, i.e. his blood vessels have a tendency – caused by various factors – to close.
For this reason, patients who seek an andrological and urological consultation because they experience problems with erectile dysfunction may find, especially if they are over 50, that they also have cardiovascular problems.
In this sense, therefore, we can say that the andrology consultation really saves lives, since thanks to the investigations undertaken to investigate the causes of erectile dysfunction, it can prevent future cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack.
How erectile dysfunction is treated
Therapy for erectile dysfunction acts directly on the symptom, i.e. the lack of erection, but does not directly treat the cause.
For this reason, in addition to medication for erectile dysfunction, the specialist will suggest a course of action to investigate other aspects that may be at the root of the disorder: from blood pressure problems, to blood sugar, to lifestyle elements such as weight control or the need to include aerobic physical activity in one’s routine.
If, for example, erectile dysfunction is caused by a state of obesity, controlling one’s weight can help restore erectile function.
After routine examinations, which always include testosterone control, the treatment of choice for erectile dysfunction is still oral medication.
However, nowadays, more innovative therapies such as shock waves, which are particularly effective in younger patients and in cases of mild vasculopathy, can be used, especially in cases of reduced response to drugs.
Shock waves are a painless treatment that has no contraindications or side effects and, thanks to its action, improves the vascular activity of the penis by counteracting the vascular causes of erectile dysfunction.
Testosterone, on the other hand, is the hormone that regulates not only sexual function but also metabolism by affecting blood glucose and calcium levels, body fat and muscles, and mood.
A physiological drop in testosterone in individuals over 50 is about 2 per cent per year, but it can increase in the case of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
The specialist might therefore prescribe testosterone to patients who have a decrease, while it is not recommended that individuals with a normal level take it.
In fact, testosterone, if in excess, can increase blood viscosity and favour the onset of heart attack or stroke.
The importance of the andrological examination
It is advisable for male patients to get into the habit of seeing an andrologist as early as adolescence, just as most women begin a gynaecological course from puberty.
We must therefore help to change those cultural preconceptions whereby the sphere of male sexuality is exclusively private and the onset of sexuality problems represents an element of shame.
The possibility of having to undergo an andrological examination should be welcomed as normal, just like medical examinations pertaining to other specialities.
Erectile dysfunction, in fact, is on the rise among younger patients, probably due to increased stress and the use of pornographic sites, which can cause a detachment from reality by bringing distorted sexual patterns to the attention of the young man, leading to insecurities in his relationship with his partner.
Patients over 50, perhaps also presenting an increase in body weight associated with erectile dysfunction and decreased sexual desire, should always refer to the specialist.
This is in fact a picture that could indicate, behind the specific disorder, the onset of cardiovascular and metabolic problems, not only psychological.