• Erectile Dysfunction (ED): A Primer


    Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem in men with heart disease. It is the repeated inability to obtain and maintain an erection of the penis. Of course, the inability to obtain an erection now and then is not necessarily cause for concern. But an ongoing problem can significantly affect your quality of life. Even more importantly, ED can sometimes be the first sign of a larger health problem, such as heart disease or diabetes.

    ED is a complicated problem that involves the brain, hormones, nerves, muscles, blood vessels and emotions. When you have ischemic heart disease, the following factors can contribute to sexual problems:

    • It is possible that blood vessels in the penis may become clogged with plaque, much like the arteries in your heart. Without adequate blood flow to the penis, it becomes more difficult to obtain and maintain an erection.
    • When you also have diabetes, which affects many people with heart disease, neuropathy (the long-term damage to your nerves as a result of high blood sugar) may affect your ability to obtain and maintain an erection.
    • Certain heart medications, such as beta-blockers, may affect the physiological steps involved in sexual arousal. 
    • And especially if you’ve had a heart event, psychological factors may also get in the way of an erection. You may be afraid that sex will strain your heart, cause more heart problems or even cause death.

    Talking about your heart-related sexual activity concerns with your doctor will help alleviate your fears and help you find the underlying causes of ED so that you may start looking for solutions. To learn more about the various treatments for ED, including medications and other options, click here.