Erectile dysfunction and heart attacks – is there a link?

In some cases erectile dysfunction can be a symptom of heart disease

Does having erectile dysfunction mean that I have heart problems?

Not necessarily – however men over the age of 40 with erectile dysfunction have a much greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke than those who do not. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a range of things, both physical and psychological. One of the main physical causes is restricted blood flow to the penis, which can be an indication of high cholesterol, a key contributor to heart disease.

High cholesterol causes the arteries, which pump blood around the body, to become blocked. This then restricts the blood flow to vessels across the body, including those that carry blood to the penis. These vessels are relatively small and can become easily blocked, which can make getting an erection more difficult.  Therefore, if you suffer from erectile dysfunction it may be an early warning sign of high cholesterol.

Erectile dysfunction can also be caused by other physical and psychological factors, which aren’t typically linked to heart health.

Are erectile dysfunction treatments bad for my heart?

No! Common treatments for erectile dysfunction include Viagra (also known by its generic version Sildenafil), Levitra and Cialis. These treatments work by relaxing the blood vessels to improve the flow of blood to the penis. These treatments do not damage your heart however they can’t be taken alongside certain medicines used to treat heart conditions such as nitrates. This is why the link between heart disease and erectile dysfunction treatments can sometimes be confusing.

What should I do if I am worried?

If you are over 40 and suffer from erectile dysfunction alongside other risk factors such as, being overweight or being a smoker then you should visit your GP for some tests. The most important tests are for cholesterol, blood pressure and high sugar levels. It can also be a good idea to get further tests for thyroid problems and testosterone levels. When you are prescribed erectile dysfunction treatments from your GP or one of our online doctors they will advise you on which tests you should take based on your profile.

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