ED and heart (cardiovascular) disease (CVD)
Many people’s arteries or blood vessels become narrower and stiffer with age. This ‘hardening of the arteries’, also known as atherosclerosis or arterial disease, reduces the amount of blood which can flow through them. Since erections depend on getting enough blood flow to the penis, men with atherosclerosis may get ED.
‘Hardening of the arteries’ develops slowly and it may take many years before it causes any symptoms, but the small arteries in the penis may be the first affected. This may prevent enough blood flow to the penis on sexual stimulation, which reduces the ability to get an erection.
It is important to get help early for ED because getting it seen to will not only help to restore the ability to have sex, but may also mean that any other health problems are diagnosed and treated early, which improves the chances of successful treatment 2, 3.
Treatment of ED
The first thing the doctor will do is ensure that your heart condition is stable and your heart is able to take the demands of sexual activity. He or she will then review any other medicines you are taking. This is because some of the medicines used to treat CVD may actually cause ED. Your doctor may do additional tests to assess the heart and circulation and then advise you on treatment. Men who are experiencing erectile problems will benefit from changing to a healthy lifestyle. Getting active, losing excess weight and stopping smoking are all important. Remember, if you have heart problems, check with your doctor before you start any new exercise programme.