Chronic Health Problems That Lead to ED
It can be tempting for a man to dismiss a sexual disorder as the product of some emotional or psychological problem, such as severe stress or depression. While erectile dysfunction (ED) can have psychological causes, it is often the byproduct of chronic physical conditions that, on the surface, may appear to have little or nothing to do with sexual function. That they often do impair sexual activity is a reminder that male genitals are as vulnerable to chronic health problems as any other organ.
ED describes a man's consistent inability to get and maintain an erection. In some cases, ED is the result of a serious, even life-threatening physical problem, such as heart disease. Remember that an erection is all about blood flow, so it should come as no surprise that problems with erectile performance are often symptomatic of a broader circulatory health threat or some other systemic affliction.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure causes arterial narrowing, which reduces the flow of blood necessary for an erection. High blood pressure may also obstruct a man's ability to ejaculate and even undermine the desire for sex, problems that can also be worsened by certain blood pressure medications, such as beta blockers and diuretics.
Fortunately, there are blood pressure medications on the market that do not interfere with male sexual performance. Producers of Viagra and other ED drugs sell pills that work for a lot of men, but it's always advisable to check with a doctor if you take blood pressure medication, especially those with nitrates.
A connection between cardiovascular disease and ED may seem far-fetched for men who think of ED as a psychological issue and not a physical problem. However, there is clear evidence that atherosclerosis, which is the hardening or narrowing of an artery, is the leading cause of ED.
In such cases, ED may be the manifestation and predictor of a potentially lethal coronary issue, something to be taken very seriously. Smoking, poor diet, diabetes and high cholesterol are all risk factors for atherosclerosis; fortunately, each can be addressed with lifestyle changes such as a proper diet and an exercise routine, as well as certain medications.
High cholesterol has also been linked to ED, as well as high blood pressure and heart disease. A 2009 study found that erectile functioning improved after treatment emphasizing atorvastatin (also known as Lipitor) to lower cholesterol levels (other research findings indicate that some medications that reduce lipid levels may aggravate ED).
Men with ED should eliminate trans fats, sugar and processed foods and substitute vegetables, whole grains, fish and other staples of what is known as the Mediterranean diet.
Erection problems are quite common in men with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that causes progressive nerve damage. Damage to nerves involved with the erectile response can produce ED, and some men may experience decreased sensitivity in their penis.
Sexual arousal and performance can be improved in MS patients by using a vibrator where nerve damage has impaired the ability to become aroused. Medications such as alprostadil and phentolamine can help dilate blood vessels within the penis, thus improving blood flow.
All about flow
Erectile functioning is all about blood flow. Chronic health issues such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, whether the result of heredity or unhealthy lifestyle choices, prevent proper blood flow to the penis and may undermine a man's ability to have an erection. Dietary modifications and exercise are a good start, and there are medical options, such as testosterone replacement therapy and penile implants, for severe cases.