Erectile dysfunction often a warning sign of heart disease

Trouble getting or keeping an erection seems like it's just a sexual problem. For many men, though, it is much more. As described in What to do about Erectile Dysfunction, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, erectile dysfunction is often an early warning sign of heart disease or other circulatory problems.

From a purely mechanical perspective, an erection is a hydraulic event — extra blood must be delivered to the penis, kept there for a while, and then drained away. An erection may not happen if something interferes with that blood flow. That something is often atherosclerosis, the accumulation of cholesterol-filled plaque inside arteries.

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