Erectile Dysfunction Not all in Your Head: A Little Limp Could Mean Big Health Issues

Erectile dysfunction could actually be the warning sign ?of a serious health problem?

Credit: Flickr/San Diego Shooter

Limping in the bedroom? Erectile dysfunction could indicate serious health problem

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem many men don’t want to talk about, but their lives could depend on it, according to doctors

While drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra have jumpstarted a sexual revolution for men faced with the problem, they may in fact only be treating a symptom of something much more serious.

Erectile Dysfunction May Indicate Vascular Disease

Sexual medicine physician Dr. Stacy Elliott says ED can be a clue to other major health issues, acting as a red flag for heart disease as much as smoking does, or a family history of cardiovascular problems.

“Erectile dysfunction is now being looked at as a canary in the coal mine for cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Elliott.

In fact, approximately 70 per cent of ED cases are now related to vascular problems, implying that blood vessels elsewhere in the body are less than healthy. Being aware of this association may help save more than your sex life.

In this case, the younger you are, the more likely ED is a sign that you’re at risk of heart disease. Men under age 50 are especially at high risk.

It’s the same story if you have ED along with diabetes, depression or high blood pressure. Each of these conditions is independently linked to cardiovascular disease.

It’s Not Just in Your, Ahem, Head

While most people think of ED as an issue that confronts men in their golden years, it can also affect middle-aged and younger men. Stats show that more than 50 per cent of men in their 50s experience erectile dysfunction. But so do one-third of men in their 40s, and 10 per cent of men between 18 and 24 years of age.

Still, only one in 10 men will actually see their doctors about the problem.

“I think one of the most common misconceptions around erectile dysfunction is that it’s ‘all in your head,'” says Dr. Elliott.

While other factors besides cardiovascular disease may be responsible for ED, such as psychological issues, or hormonal or nerve conditions, couples and sex therapist Dr. David McKenzie emphasizes that erectile dysfunction is a symptom that demands attention.

See Your Doctor for Any Sexual Dysfunction

He always advises his clients with any kind of sexual dysfunction that may have a physiological basis to see their medical doctor for a thorough checkup, “and every other kind of test you can get to rule out any physical pathology,” he adds.

Unfortunately, once cardiovascular problems set in contributing to ED, studies have not shown that treatment can actually improve the dysfunction.

The good news is you can help prevent the problem in the first place. Starting at a young age, keeping up a healthy lifestyle, which includes not smoking, can improve your overall cardiovascular health — and help maintain performance in the bedroom.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.