Erectile dysfunction (ED) – the inability to achieve or maintain an erection - is a common condition, affecting around 50% of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 to some extent. While it can be caused by a number of psychological issues, such as depression, stress and anxiety, problems with blood flow are commonly to blame, particularly for older men.
All about the blood flow
Once sexual arousal occurs, the brain sends a signal to the nerves in the penis, promoting good blood flow and causing the tissue to swell and harden. Therefore, anything that interferes with the circulation of blood can potentially cause impotence.
Warning sign for heart disease
According to urologist Dr David Josephson, erectile dysfunction can act as an early warning sign to men that a heart attack is on the way.
"We see a lot of patients that present to a healthcare practitioner for the first time without having any other symptoms. About 25% of guys will have undiagnosed heart disease."
He explains: "The arteries that go down to the penis are much smaller than the arteries that feed the heart muscle, so you're more likely to have erectile dysfunction as a first sign of heart disease than a heart attack. We're actually saving people's lives by diagnosing and treating ED."
British urology consultant Dr Geoffrey Hackett has also warned of the link between impotence and heart attack risk. In an open letter to the BMJ, he points to research which suggests that men with ED are 50% more likely to have a heart attack – and that impotence could act as a warning sign to doctors up to three years before a coronary event.
Dr Hackett said that ED can be a symptom of hardening of the arteries, which can block blood flow - and that impotence is particularly good at showing heart attack risk in men with diabetes. In fact, he suggests it's more accurate at predicting heart attacks than high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
If you're experiencing erectile dysfunction, get checked out by your doctor - it could save your life.
Three books that may prove interesting:
Erectile Dysfunction: How to Overcome Impotence Permanently, £4.99
Erectile Dysfunction Cure: How To Cure ED Naturally & Quickly, £6.99
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, £11.93