By Bob Condor

There is truly nothing funny about erectile dysfunction or ED among men with the condition. Let’s hope as a society—American, global, you name it, we are over that.

Way over it.

As if the social stigma and emotional challengers were not enough, the research is becoming irrefutable that ED is a forerunner to heart disease, most notably heart attacks and strokes.

A new study, to be published May 27 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, indicates that ED is typically discovered first in men with type 2 diabetes (formerly adult-onset diabetes) and then later—months or years—the same man develops heart problems.

Previous studies have found a similar connection between ED and cardiovascular vulnerability. For example, Italian researchers made the compelling argument that while all men with type 2 diabetes have significant plaque buildup in the arteries, the guys who are most likely to suffer complications have been diagnosed with ED.

Two action steps jump out from the new and past studies: (1.) Men need to talk with their doctors about ED symptoms (and wives might have to do some persuading) in order to allow your practitioner to keep your heart healthy; and (2.) Addressing any and all risk factors—eating less saturated fats, controlling cholesterol, being physically active, getting 7 to 8 hours of nightly sleep—is vitally protective for men with ED. In the Italian study, controlling cholesterol was found to be a strong reducer of ED/heart disease risk.

Of course, some men are not too happy or inclined to speak to their doctors about erectile troubles. Framing it as a predictor of even more undesirable life events—one Japanese scientist made it clear that ED might even be a statistically reliable forecasters of potential death—might help men open up. The Daily Health Blog is all about quality of life, no matter what your condition or situation. Each of us needs to practice self-care; sometimes that comes with stepping outside the comfort zone.

On the technical side, what ED flags is blood vessel damage that is not always that easy to note on magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) or other imaging tests. Doctors can test for high blood pressure and certain kidney functions and activity levels to see if the ED is an indicator of heart problems.

There are lifestyle steps a man can take when faced with ED symptoms, including a personal program to reduce stress. Not talking to a doctor about erectile issues might just add to the anxiety and possible heart damage.
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“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing. He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors’ Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.”


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