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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Erectile Dysfunction? Maybe it’s Time to See a Cardiologist

It has been estimated that one in three men over the age of 50 will experience erectile dysfunction (ED) from time to time.  As men age, the likelihood of ED rises, in part due to a natural decline in testosterone levels. However, for many men, ED can be a harbinger of cardiovascular disease, and an early sign that it’s time to take heart health seriously.

The blood vessels supplying the penis appear to be particularly vulnerable to the same risk factors that can affect the blood vessels of the heart. Dr. Ian Thompson and colleagues reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2005 that men who experience ED even occasionally are 45 percent more likely to develop serious cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, over the next five years.

What factors seem to be the most important? Obesity (especially abdominal obesity), diabetes, tobacco use, and a sedentary lifestyle significantly boost the odds of ED. In a study of over 30,000 men who were participants in the landmark Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the more physically active men were about 30 percent less likely to develop ED compared to those who rarely worked out. Those who were obese were 30 percent more likely to experience erectile difficulties than men of normal weight. Interestingly, a Mediterranean diet also seems to help.

When you initiate these changes, it may take a year or more for the ED to improve, since the arteries need time to recover. But if you follow this plan, you’re virtually guaranteed to feel better, look sexier, and live longer. Who could argue with that?

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Tags: Diet and Heart Health , Exercise , Men and Heart Health , Tobacco

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.