With Valentine's and Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Day falling on the same day, it’s a nice reminder that what happens with the heart can affect what happens with the penis.
Atherosclerosis and the penis
Atherosclerosis is one of the leading causes of death globally and doesn't just affect the arteries supplying blood to the heart. In fact, the deposition of fatty plaques occurs within the arteries supplying the penis many years before the heart and is estimated to precede coronary artery disease (heart attacks) by 3 to 5 years.1,2
What is atherosclerosis?
- Atherosclerosis is where your arteries become narrowed following the build up of plaque within the arterial wall, making it difficult for blood to flow through them. It increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Erectile Dysfunction as a marker for Cardiovascular Disease
The British Society for Sexual Medicine has endorsed the evidence suggesting the predictive value of ED merits a re-classification for ED to be recognised as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).1 The European Society of Cardiology also recently recognised the strong evidence implying a CVD risk assessment is needed in men with ED.3 There is now mounting evidence that leverages ED as a helpful screening tool for doctors to detect the presence of ‘silent atherosclerosis’.
The impact of ED in men
There's often an untold cascading impact from ED that can have severe consequences on the mental health and wellbeing of those affected. The embarrassment and shame can lead to anxiety, depression, and loss of self-esteem. In one analysis, the most reported reaction to ED was a sense of emasculation.4 These feelings are intensified in young men, with some describing ED as a "total humiliation" and a "profound feeling of being less than anyone else".5 Although estimates vary – there is a relatively consistent relationship between men with ED and a higher occurrence of depression.6,7 In one large-scale meta-analysis, men with ED were nearly three times more likely to experience depression than men without ED.6
Learn more about the impact of ED
Looking after your heart health
Sticking to a healthy diet and lifestyle, including exercise, sleep, and looking after your mental health, are all practical changes you can make to keep your heart healthy and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis developing. This may in turn, reduce your risk of developing ED too.
Raising awareness of ED in men
We are supporting national ED Day to raise awareness of a condition that is severely underdiagnosed in men. So, while many celebrate the heart-warming annual event of love, it's important to reflect on the multitude of benefits to keeping the heart healthy, as a healthy heart is a healthy penis! This ED day, learn more about the symptoms of ED, and be sure to visit your healthcare professional if you think you may have it.
- Hacket G, et al. J Sex Med 2018;15:430–457.
- Montorsi P, et al. Eur Heart J 2006; 27:2632-2639.
- Visseren FLJ, et al. Eur Heart J 2021;42(34):327–3337.
- Tomlinson J, et al. BMJ 2004;328(7447):1037.
- Kale S. Erectile dysfunction or performance anxiety? The truth behind a modern malaise. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/18/erectile-dysfunction-performance-anxiety-truth-modern-malaise. Date accessed: September 2022).
- Qian L, et al. J Sex Med 2018;15(8):1073–1082.
- Ping-Song C, et al. J Sex Med 2015;12:804–812.