ED as a Warning: The Canary in the Coal Mine
Have you heard the expression "a canary in a coal mine?" Miners used to carry caged canaries while at work to detect carbon monoxide. The birds would die before the levels of gas became hazardous to miners. This signal became a fail-safe for the teams of men and women.
Our bodies have some fail-safe alarms, too. In fact, men have a warning signal that should never be ignored: erectile dysfunction (ED). Believe it or not, difficultly or inability to get an erection when aroused can be your body's way of telling you to take a look at your heart health.
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when fatty build-up in the arteries of the heart makes them narrower and can cause a heart attack. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men in the United States. The fatty build-up around the heart often causes no symptoms until you're having chest pain or even a full-blown heart attack.
ED happens before CAD is detected in almost 70 percent of cases, so it's important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you have ED so that you can be evaluated for CAD.
Erections occur when your brain sends signals that allow arteries in your penis to open completely. Extra blood is delivered to the penis through these arteries, which are much smaller within the penis than in other parts of the body, including the heart. If your arteries are blocked, you might have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection.
There are lots of options to choose from, which can seem a little overwhelming. Our team can counsel you and help you choose the treatment that works best for you, for your lifestyle, and for your partner.
Jim Hotaling, MD
Whether your ED is caused by CAD, stress, diabetes, obesity, or any other factors, you shouldn't be embarrassed, and you shouldn't feel like it's something you should have to live with.
Treatments for erectile dysfunction include:
Hotaling recommends lifestyle changes to lower your risk of ED and to keep your heart healthy.
"Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, so quitting is a great first step toward a healthy heart and normal erections," Hotaling said. "Exercise and a healthy diet will also reduce cholesterol and lower your blood pressure, helping you get on the road to a healthier heart and maybe a more satisfying sex life."