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  • Jacki Meinhardt, DNP, FNP

What does Erectile Dysfunction have to do with Heart Disease?

Male sexual performance is linked to cardiovascular health. Erectile difficulty (ED) is an early indicator of cardiac disease and potentially carotid artery plaque.

Why should you care?

Because 52% of men over the age of 40 years old experience erectile difficulties, there are actionable steps to address the underlying causes of this and prevent this disease from getting worse. The key to understanding erectile problems is to understand cardiovascular health and, ultimately, endothelial dysfunction.

What is endothelial dysfunction - the other ED?

First, basic anatomy. The body is made of tiny arteries called arterioles. These small arteries regulate blood flow throughout the body by dilating (getting bigger) or constricting (smaller) the blood vessels. The movement of blood through the body's blood pressure works. The endothelium lines these tiny arteries. The endothelium also protects the tissues from various toxic substances, regulates blood clotting, controls fluid, electrolytes, and regulates inflammation. What all this means is that the proper functioning of the endothelium is critical for the normal function of the body

When the endothelial layer fails to perform all these functions adequately - in other words, when endothelial dysfunction is present - atherosclerosis will develop, as will hypertension, erectile dysfunction, and different types of cardiovascular disease. There are lifestyle measures that can improve endothelial function. These include reducing our risk of cardiovascular disease through weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, blood pressure control, and blood sugar control. An essential step is an early diagnosis through a non-invasive diagnostic test now available by using an ultrasound to examine the arteries in the neck.

In addition, several supplements and medications are being explicitly studied to see whether they can improve endothelial dysfunction in a clinically meaningful way. Some of the agents that appear to show promise include nifedipine, estrogen, L-arginine, and Viagra or sildenafil.

Call and schedule an appointment to discuss endothelial dysfunction with Dr. Calihan or Dr. Meinhardt today!

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