Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a man’s worst nightmare. Defined as the inability to get or keep an erection that’s good enough for sex, this condition isn’t just a sexual problem. It actually points to something bigger – your life expectancy. ED is extremely common, affecting 30 million American men and 150 million men worldwide.1 It can happen at any age, but the risk increases as you get older. About 15 percent of men between ages 40 and 50 have ED. The prevalence increases to 45 percent of men in their 60s and 70 percent of men in their 70s.2
If age isn’t a cause, then what’s to blame? As it turns out, ED is usually a sign of another health problem. Examples include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and prostate cancer. Medication, depression, stress, smoking, and obesity can also play a part.3 This is also how ED decides how long you’ll live. It’s a marker of underlying problems, not the direct cause of death. In fact, men with ED are 70 percent more likely to die prematurely!4 To reduce your risk and live longer, focus on treating these 3 diseases linked to ED.
Diseases Caused Due To Erectile Dysfunction
1. Erectile Dysfunction Increases The Risk For Heart Disease
Hypertension, a major risk factor for heart disease, decreases blood supply to the penis and causes ED.
In America, heart disease is the top cause of death for both men and women. It kills 1 in 4 people each year, with up to 89 percent of cardiac events affecting males.5 6 Clearly, men need to take heart disease seriously, and ED is a strong predictor of your risk.7 The two go hand in hand! Hypertension also damages heart muscle cells, thickens arterial walls, and decreases nitric oxide, a molecule needed for erections. No wonder 30 percent of hypertensive men also have ED.
But here’s where it gets tricky. Some anti-hypertensive drugs can increase the risk of ED. For example, beta-blockers are linked to sexual dysfunction and impotence. While scientists are working on better versions,8 consider natural ways to reduce high blood pressure. Exercising, limiting alcohol, and cutting back on salt are all great ideas.9
2. Erectile Dysfunction Increases The Risk For Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is the country’s seventh leading cause of death. About 30.3 million Americans have diabetes, but 7.2 million go undiagnosed,10 and the numbers show no sign of slowing down. From 1980 to 2010, the diabetes rate for males increased from 2.6 in 100 to 7.2 in 100, a 177 percent increase.11 Type 2 diabetes is a major cause of ED, so it’s no surprise that men with ED have twice the risk of having undiagnosed diabetes.
Normally, men between 40 and 59 have a 1 in 50 chance of having undiagnosed diabetes. The risk increases to 1 in 10 if they have ED.12 When you have diabetes, nerves and blood vessels become weak and damaged. Your body can’t respond to sexual stimuli. In turn, nerve signals won’t increase blood flow to the penis, resulting in ED.13 A complete blood test will tell you whether you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. From there, your doctor will help you create a treatment plan.
3. Erectile Dysfunction Increases The Risk For Obesity
Obesity is a nationwide problem. Roughly 35.7 percent of American adults are obese, while 33.1 percent are overweight. Men make up most of these numbers. Being overweight increases the risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but it doesn’t stop there. It also heightens your chances for other diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and some types of cancer. With so many complications, early death is likely.14
Extra weight can bring on ED, sometimes through heart disease or diabetes. But it’s possible for an overweight man to have ED without either disease. Compared to a man with a normal BMI, a man with a BMI of 28.7 or more has a 30 percent higher risk of ED. So, weight loss can improve ED. For significant benefits, it should be long-term and 10 percent less than the initial weight.15
Erectile dysfunction doesn’t have a cause-and-effect relationship with early death. These diseases are a sign of ED, not a result of it. If your sex life is suffering, pay attention. Your penis might know more than you think.
|↑1, ↑8||Nunes, Kenia Pedrosa, Hicham Labazi, and R. Clinton Webb. “New insights into hypertension-associated erectile dysfunction.” Current opinion in nephrology and hypertension 21, no. 2 (2012): 163.|
|↑2||Collinson, Paul. “Erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease: a suitable case for treatment and prevention?.” (2017): heartjnl-2017.|
|↑3||Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑4||Loprinzi, Paul D., and Allison Nooe. “Erectile dysfunction and mortality in a national prospective cohort study.” The journal of sexual medicine 12, no. 11 (2015): 2130-2133.|
|↑5||Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑6||Men and Heart Disease Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑7||Banks, Emily, Grace Joshy, Walter P. Abhayaratna, Leonard Kritharides, Peter S. Macdonald, Rosemary J. Korda, and John P. Chalmers. “Erectile dysfunction severity as a risk marker for cardiovascular disease hospitalisation and all-cause mortality: a prospective cohort study.” PLoS medicine 10, no. 1 (2013): e1001372.|
|↑9||Changes You Can Make to Manage High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association.|
|↑10||Statistics About Diabetes. American Diabetes Association.|
|↑11||Age-Adjusted Rates of Diagnosed Diabetes per 100 Civilian, Non-Institutionalized Population, by Sex, United States, 1980–2014. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑12||Skeldon, Sean C., Allan S. Detsky, S. Larry Goldenberg, and Michael R. Law. “Erectile dysfunction and undiagnosed diabetes, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.” The Annals of Family Medicine 13, no. 4 (2015): 331-335.|
|↑13||Diabetes & Sexual & Urologic Problems. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑14||Overweight & Obesity Statistics. National Institute of diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑15||Esposito, Katherine, Francesco Giugliano, Carmen Di Palo, Giovanni Giugliano, Raffaele Marfella, Francesco D’andrea, Massimo D’armiento, and Dario Giugliano. “Effect of lifestyle changes on erectile dysfunction in obese men: a randomized controlled trial.” Jama 291, no. 24 (2004): 2978-2984.|