ED: The Real Talk

Marc Harrigan Md: ED and heart disease

It has been my experience that most men tend to shy away from regular doctor’s visits. Some subscribe to a common theme that is echoed all too often: “I feel fine, no need to go see the doctor.” Ironically, this sense of complacency often turns to urgency when something goes wrong. The most frequent “wrong” for a fair number of men: ED or Erectile Dysfunction.

Marc Harrigan, MD: ED and heart disease

ED (defined as the inability to achieve a suitable erection for intercourse) is a very common but difficult topic for men to discuss in the doctor’s office setting.

While ED is not normal at any age, let’s put it in perspective:

  • Failure to achieve an erection less than 20% of the time is not unusual and requires no treatment
  • Failure to achieve an erection 50% of the time is typically due to a psychological and/or a physical issue that may require treatment
  • It is estimated that only 1 in 10 men are affected by ED on a long-term basis

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It is important to note, however, that ED often cannot be simply addressed with a quick prescription. In fact, it shouldn’t be, because isolated complaints of ED can indicate more significant issues that require comprehensive medical care.

ED is commonly caused by interference in the nervous system resulting in decreased stimulation, vascular (blood supply) compromise and decreased brain stimuli.

Diseases that can cause ED include:

  • Vascular disease including atherosclerosis, hypertension and high cholesterol, account for fully 70% of the physical causes of ED. Consider this an early and important warning signal, as these same diseases frequently lead to a heart attack or stroke.
  • Diabetes can cause nerve or artery damage that lead to ED. Some 35-50% of all men with diabetes suffer from ED.
  • Kidney disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries may also cause ED.

Less common causes of ED include:

  • Stress/Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Certain medications, including antihypertensives, antihistamines, antidepressants and Parkinson’s disease drugs
  • Surgeries on bladder/prostate/colon

MArc Harrigan, MD: ED and heart disease

Simply stated, ED is not a simple problem. We now recognize that the correlation between ED and heart disease is very significant. Several studies have indicated that men who present with ED are at a greater risk of heart disease in five years. ED is rapidly becoming a cardiac risk factor on par with smoking or a family history of heart disease.

My advice: avoid the quick fix. Despite the preponderance of prescriptions advertised as the fast and easy solution to this problem, it’s well worth taking the time to discuss the issue with your doctor in detail. With an appropriate diagnosis and care plan in place, you’ll not only restore your lifestyle, you just might save your own life.

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