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Exploring the Connection Between Erectile Dysfunction and Heart Disease: A former Cardiac ICU nurse, now Holistic Cardiac Wellness Nurse's Perspective

Hello, fellow health enthusiasts and cardiac thrivers! Today, I want to delve into a topic that often doesn't get the attention it deserves: the link between erectile dysfunction (ED) and heart disease. As a registered nurse with a passion for preventative care, I believe it's crucial to shine a light on this connection and its implications for men's health.

First and foremost, let's address what erectile dysfunction actually is. ED refers to the consistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. While it's a common issue, affecting millions of men worldwide, it's often viewed in isolation, without considering its potential underlying causes. This can lead to depression, and medication for depression.

Erectile Dysfunction is one of the first signs a man has coronary artery disease. Why? Because the smaller arteries and microvasculature get blocked before the coronary arteries do.  So men may be reaching for a little blue pill, Viagra also known as Sildenafil when really they may need to get a cardiac workup.

HEALTH spelled out with pills

 One significant factor to consider is the relationship between ED and cardiovascular health. Research has shown that the two are closely intertwined, with ED often serving as a warning sign of underlying heart disease. How so, you may wonder? Well, the same processes that lead to heart disease, such as the buildup of plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis), can also impede blood flow to the penis, resulting in erectile difficulties.

For many men, ED can be an early indicator of cardiovascular issues, sometimes manifesting years before more serious symptoms like chest pain or heart attacks occur. This makes it a valuable red flag for healthcare professionals to assess a patient's overall heart health.

So, what can be done about this connection? As a nurse, I believe in the power of education and proactive healthcare. Men experiencing ED should view it not as a standalone problem but as a potential signal of broader health concerns. Seeking medical advice and undergoing a comprehensive and cardiac evaluation can help identify any underlying cardiovascular issues and initiate appropriate treatment and lifestyle changes.

Furthermore, adopting heart-healthy habits can benefit both cardiovascular health and erectile function as well as the whole body. Simple lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise you enjoy, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, managing stress, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding smoking can all contribute to improved vascular health and may help mitigate both ED and heart disease risk which could lead to something as serious as a heart attack, if unattended.

As healthcare professionals, it's essential for us to initiate conversations about sensitive topics like ED with our patients, creating a safe space for open dialogue and ensuring they understand the potential implications for their overall health. By addressing ED early on and taking proactive steps to manage cardiovascular risk factors, we can empower men to take control of their health and reduce their risk of heart disease.

I want to note here that should you ever be taken to the hospital while having chest pain or a heart attack, and you recently had Viagra, do NOT lie and say you did not have any. The reason is that Viagra opens up the arteries to increase blood flow (which makes sense and is the reason for using it) however, this lowers blood pressure. When you are emergently treated for a heart attack, you may be given Nitroglycerine, which is a powerful vasodilator, further dropping your blood pressure. If this pressure drop goes to a critical level, your heart, already in a lack of oxygen and in pain, and now other organs like the brain and kidneys may be affected, resulting in the need to get you on IV drips to increase your blood pressure to a safe level. 

Chances are they will want to put you on statins, even though heart disease is reversible and preventable. Statins can lead to many further health issues, such as diabetes, and they interfere with cholesterol, (not the bad guy at all) which is a master conductor of our hormone symphony. So if you have a disruption in the production of hormones (think testosterone) how might you also feel? Low libido. There are ways you can heal naturally and holistically. I invite you to take a look at my holistic cardiac wellness program for yourself to see what is possible! Go to to view the program and to check out a medical device called BEMER, which opens up microvasculature. It is really easy to use-lie on a mat 8 minutes in the morning and 8 minutes in the evening for round the clock vasodilation. 

In conclusion, the link between erectile dysfunction and heart health is a crucial aspect of men's healthcare that deserves more attention. By recognizing ED as a potential warning sign of underlying cardiovascular issues and promoting preventative measures, we can work towards improving outcomes and enhancing the overall well-being of men everywhere. Let's continue to educate, advocate, and prioritize holistic health approaches to ensure a healthier future for all.

Please share this information with others. There are so many men and couples struggling when they do not need to be. 

happy couple in the field

Here is an article by the Mayo Clinic regarding the link between ED and cardiac disease.

Erectile dysfunction: A sign of heart disease?

The same process that creates heart disease may also cause erectile dysfunction, only earlier. 

Erectile dysfunction — the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex — can be an early warning sign of current or future heart problems. Likewise, if you have heart disease, getting the right treatment might help with erectile dysfunction. Understand the connection and what you can do about it.

How are erectile dysfunction and heart problems linked?

In the past, the buildup of plaques in the arteries of your body (atherosclerosis) was believed to be the reason why erectile dysfunction often precedes heart problems. The idea was that plaque buildup reduces blood flow in the penis, making an erection difficult.

However, experts now believe that erectile dysfunction preceding heart problems is more often due to the dysfunction of the inner lining of the blood vessels (endothelium) and smooth muscle.

Endothelial dysfunction causes inadequate blood supply to the heart and impaired blood flow to the penis, and aids in the development of atherosclerosis.

How strong is the connection between erectile dysfunction and heart problems?

Erectile dysfunction does not always indicate an underlying heart problem. However, research suggests that men with erectile dysfunction who have no obvious cause, such as trauma, and who have no symptoms of heart problems should be screened for heart disease before starting any treatment.

What are the risk factors?

Besides sharing a common disease process, erectile dysfunction and heart disease also share many risk factors, including:

  • Diabetes. Men who have diabetes are at high risk of erectile dysfunction and heart disease.

  • Tobacco use. Smoking increases your risk of developing vascular disease and can cause erectile dysfunction.

  • Alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can cause heart disease and might contribute to other causes of heart disease, such as high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol. Alcohol also impairs erections.

  • High blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure damages the lining of your arteries and accelerates the process of vascular disease. Certain high blood pressure medications, such as thiazide diuretics, can also affect sexual function.

  • High cholesterol. A high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis.

  • Age. As you get older, erections might take longer to develop and might not be as firm. The younger you are, the more likely that erectile dysfunction signals a risk of heart disease. Men younger than 50 are at especially high risk.

  • Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors for heart disease.

  • Low testosterone. Men with low testosterone have higher rates of erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease than do men with normal testosterone levels.

What are the treatment options for erectile dysfunction caused by heart disease?

If your doctor thinks you might be at risk of heart disease, consider making lifestyle changes. Any lifestyle change that improves heart health improves penis health, too. Increase your physical activity, maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation — or not at all. More-serious signs and symptoms of heart disease could lead to further tests or treatment.

If you have both erectile dysfunction and heart disease, talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you take certain heart medications, especially nitrates, it is not safe to use many of the medications used to treat erectile dysfunction.

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