ED: A Warning Sign for Heart Disease
by Dr. Ralph M. Sutherlin
Erectile dysfunction is often a hint of underlying heart disease.  ED is a common phenomenon among men who have coronary heart disease.  In many cases, ED might be the first clue that something is wrong with the cardiovascular system, thus erections serve as a barometer for overall health.
Coronary heart disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart and impairing the functioning of blood vessels. Healthy blood flow is also necessary for erectile function. One of the first stages of coronary heart disease is endothelial dysfunction, a condition in which the blood vessels cannot dilate (open) properly. Endothelial dysfunction often affects the blood vessels of the penis first.
From a purely mechanical perspective, an erection is a hydraulic event?extra blood must be delivered to the penis, kept there for a while, then drained away. An erection may not happen if something interferes with blood flow to the penis.
That something is often atherosclerosis, the artery-clogging process at the root of most angina (chest pain with exercise or stress), heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular conditions. One result of this disease process is the accumulation of cholesterol-filled plaque inside the walls of the arteries. Plaque can inhibit blood flow through an artery.
The effect on health depends on what tissue or organ the plaque-damaged artery nourishes. Plaque in a coronary artery can cause angina (chest pain with exercise or stress) or a heart attack. In an artery in the brain, it can cause memory loss, dementia, or stroke.  Atherosclerosis in arteries supplying the penis can prevent the increase in blood flow needed to start or sustain an erection.
Fortunately, there are several ways to combat erectile dysfunction. Simple lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising more, or stopping smoking can help. Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs work for some men. Devices and therapy can also help.
Men with ED experienced more than twice the number of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular death than men without ED.  Erectile dysfunction is a risk factor and an important early predictor for heart attacks and strokes.
Men who have ED should undergo a comprehensive cardiovascular evaluation.  Please call Dr. Ralph Sutherlin at Preventive Health Medical Institute for a complimentary office visit:  208-813-9292
If you have questions or comments, please email to: doc1@phmidaho.com.
Dr Ralph Sutherlin is the only elite member of the BaleDoneen Method for Preventive Cardiology in Idaho. Consultations available at Preventive Health Medical Institute (208) 813-9292