Erectile dysfunction often a warning sign of heart disease

Trouble getting or keeping an erection seems like it’s just a “down there” problem. For many men, though, it is much more. Erectile dysfunction, as it is formally known, 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, 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 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. As described in Erectile Dysfunction, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, atherosclerosis in arteries supplying the penis can prevent the increase in blood flow needed to start or sustain an erection.

In fact, blood vessel problems are the leading cause of erectile dysfunction. That’s why Harvard’s Dr. Michael P. O’Leary, the medical editor of the report, says that erections “serve as a barometer for overall health,” and that erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of trouble in the heart or elsewhere.

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 sex therapy can also help.


  1. Al Amin

    I think the most of us are not so aware about heart diseases. Them the most of the threats are not came with the sex. It also depends on the food habit.

  2. Bobby

    Very Informative Article….thanks so much!

    For more information on ED go to



  4. Kev 1

    My Impotence And Noni Juice

    Since 2004 I have been suffering with E.D on and off until now. When I first went to the Doctor about it I was prescribed Viagra which worked well at the time then about a year later E.D happened again, E.D was happening to me for about a month before I went back to the Doctor which he prescribed Viagra again but I also had tests done to see if it was a physical problem which the tests show that it isn’t so it seems to be a sociological, Viagra is a god send but it doesn’tt solve the problem for me I wanted to sort it out for good as it seems to be all in my head wwhich made me want to solve the problem even more, to cut a long story short in April 2011 I was introduced to a drink called Noni Juice which is meant to have very good health benefits on the whole body so I thought that I would give it a try as also it was an opportunity to make a part time income for myself.

    I was drinking Noni Juice for a month before I noticed my energy levels increase which I thought was okay but nothing special after the second month my E.D had virtually stopped over night but I noticed that my erections seem slightly stronger then normal, I have stayed drinking Noni Juice which seems to be improving my whole body and not just my E.D.

    I’m not saying that Noni Juice is a cure as my E.D may happen to me again at some stage but to date I have had no E.D problems or needed any Viagra my sex drive has increased and i’m getting more random erections throughout the day.

  5. vand

    For many men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, the class of phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors is a God send.

  6. vand

    serve as a barometer for overall health,” and that erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of trouble in the heart or elsewhere.

  7. Brian

    Thanks for the post. I think that both problems relate to low oxygen levels in cells and reduced perfusion of vital organs. The cause is simple, heart disease patients have heavy breathing 24/7 and this causes low blood flow to the heart muscle and the genital area causing variety of abnormalities. Apart from that, there are numerous other effects of hyperventilation and low CO2.

  8. Ionut

    Both cardiologists and urologists recognize that erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a warning sign for cardiovascular disease. That’s because cardiovascular disease and ED share many of the same risk factors — high blood pressure, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels, overweight, depression, smoking and inactivity. The same mechanism that damages blood vessels in the heart does the same in the penis. In fact, the risk for heart disease is so high among men with ED that it is assumed they have heart disease until proved otherwise. This is why I tell men with even mild cases of ED that they must get screened for heart disease.

  9. Will Kelly

    This is exactly why drugs to treat ED can be so dangerous if not prescribed properly. Many men just want to fix their problem without realizing that ED can be an early warning sign for something much more serious.

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  11. Steve

    Firstly, thank you for a very informative article. ED is one of those sensitive subjects that affect most men at one time or another. The factors that contribute to this embarrassing and somewhat depressing condition are numerous and, as you wrote in your article, a simple lifestyle change is sometimes all that is needed to sort out the problem.
    Many mens minds immediately go to drugs, like Viagra, as soon as there seems to be a problem because, quite simply, I don’t know of any man who wants to knock his male ego with a failure to get an erection at the appropriate time. As there are some drugs available that offer a ‘quick fix’ of this problem, some of them have severe side-effects which is why it is imperative to have a consultation with your doctor prior to taking any medication.

  12. erectie

    For many men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, the class of phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors is a God send.

  13. Evilcyber

    While circulatory problems no doubt present a cause of erectile dysfunction, it is not the only one. Another, and actually not that uncommon, is a low testosterone level.

    To make a final judgment, a doctor’s appointment where the most likely cause is determined should be called for.

    • P.J. Skerrett

      You are absolutely right. There are several causes of erectile dysfunction, one of which may be low testosterone. It’s a tricky one, though, since not all men with erectile dysfunction have low testosterone, and not all men with low testosterone have erectile dysfunction. As you say, and as I point out in the article, problems getting or keeping an erection should send a man to see his doctor.

      PJ Skerrett

  14. Carlos Monteiro

    It is interesting to note that ED and atherosclerosis have many risk factors in common like ageing, physical inactivity, improper diet, psychological stress, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. In relation to this point there are diverse studies showing that: a) increased sympathetic activity and mental stress may affect erectile function with studies suggesting that an elevated central sympathetic tone may be one of the causes of psychogenic impotence; b) a study suggested that drugs acting within the central nervous system that reduce the sympathetic antierectile flow and enhance the parasympathetic proerectile flow to the penis may restore penile erection in cases of erectile dysfunction of both psychogenic and organic origin; c) other study have demonstrated that patients complaining of daytime sexual dysfunction and found by sleep-related erection monitoring to suffer from organic erectile dysfunction, have altered cardiac autonomic balance during both stages of sleep; c) and, finally, a very recent study have shown that patients with ED exhibited different heart rate variability compared with normal controls. This suggested to the authors that the patients with ED may have some kind of imbalance in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and it may be possible that general imbalance of the ANS is one of the causes of ED.
    Taking in view the above studies and our postulation that sympathetic predominance is the primary factor in the cascade of events leading to the atherogenic spiraling, we have to assume that it really is the link between ED and cardiovascular disease.
    (An extract of our article “Sympathetic Predominance: The link between erectile dysfunction, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease?” published in September 23, 2011 at our blog
    Carlos Monteiro

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