For all men who think ED stands for erectile dysfunction, let’s introduce another possible meaning: early death. According to Michael Gregor, MD, erectile dysfunction and early death go hand in hand, especially for men who begin to experience erectile problems when they are relatively young. In fact, 40 percent of men older than 40 are intimately familiar with this sexual issue, so it may be time to explore the relationship between ED and the possibility of dying before your time.
Erectile dysfunction and early death connection
The relationship between erectile dysfunction and early death has a common factor: vascular disease, or more precisely, coronary artery disease. Men who experience erectile dysfunction should consider it a warning sign of impending heart disease because both conditions involve inflamed and blocked arteries—atherosclerosis–of the penile arteries and coronary arteries. The difference is that the penile arteries are typically affected first since they are narrower than the ones servicing the heart. Therefore, plaque accumulation in the penile arteries will manifest as erectile dysfunction often long before plaque lining the coronary arteries will signal heart disease.
This intimate relationship between constriction of blood flow in the penis and the heart has led some experts to call erectile dysfunction “penile angina.” In fact, doctors can predict the results of a man’s cardiac stress test with an accuracy of 80 percent if they measure the blood flow in his penis.
I mentioned that ED affects a significant percentage of men older than 40, but even younger men should be aware of their eating habits and the risk of high cholesterol since it predicts erectile dysfunction, as well as stroke, heart attack, and a shorter lifespan, in future years. It would be shortsighted to depend on taking ED drugs for erectile challenges when there is a potentially deadly underlying reason for those problems.
Reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction and early death
One effective way to reduce the risk of penile angina, ED, and coronary artery disease is through diet. Researchers have shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet, which focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, and legumes, can help support and promote heart (and penile) health. One study, for example, looked at the impact of this dietary plan on men with metabolic syndrome, which is a risk factor for heart disease. Half the men followed the diet and half were a control group.
After two years on the Mediterranean diet, those men showed improvements in endothelial function and inflammatory markers (C-reactive protein), while these elements remained unchanged in the control group. In addition, scores on the International Index of Erectile Function were 22 or higher (indicative of no erectile dysfunction) in 13 of the men on the Mediterranean diet but only two in the control group. The authors concluded that following this dietary plan “might be effective per se in reducing the prevalence of ED in men with the metabolic syndrome.”
Read more in our Erectile Dysfunction Health Center.
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