Heart-healthy habits not only lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, they can also lower the risk of erectile dysfunction in men. It’s well known that the plaque formation that underlies coronary heart disease can also contribute to erectile dysfunction. Now, a systematic review from researchers at the Mayo Clinic, and published this week in Archives of Internal Medicine, has found convincing evidence that the same lifestyle changes that are good for the heart, can improve sexual function in men.
It’s estimated that about half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience erectile dysfunction (ED). Many of the risk factors for the disease are the same as those for heart disease: high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, erectile dysfunction can be a reliable early warning sign for heart disease.
The new systematic review of six clinical trials, the first of its kind according to the researchers, found that men who followed a prudent diet and got more exercise saw improvement in their ED symptoms as well. Lifestyle changes alone may not be enough for men who suffer from moderate to severe erectile dysfunction, but for those with milder forms, healthier habits may be all they need to improve their sexual health. The study also found that combining lifestyle changes with treatments for heart disease risk factors, such as statins to lower cholesterol in those who need it, can also improve sexual function.
Bottom line: Erectile dysfunction is neither a shameful symptom to ignore, nor a minor problem to casually treat with drugs such as Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra. ED can be a warning sign of heart disease. If you experience the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, talk to your doctor. Improving your diet and exercise routine may be enough, but you may also need statins to lower cholesterol. If those options don’t work, other interventions, including the ED drugs noted above, are an option.
The Effect of Lifestyle Modification and Cardiovascular Risk Factor Reduction on Erectile Dysfunction [Archives of Internal Medicine]