~ What can you do about it? ~
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is the most common sexual problem experienced by men. About one third of men will experience this problem in their lifetime. Even though it is quite common, and can have profound effects on intimate relationships, quality of life and self-esteem; very few men seek medical attention due to shame. However, there is nothing to be ashamed about.
Maintaining an erection involves a complicated symphony of events in the body and can result from many causes, including cardiovascular disease, neurological and hormonal dysfunction, anatomical anomalies and physiological conditions, and can also be induced by medication and recreational drug use.
There is increasing incidence of erectile dysfunction with advancing age, but this alone is not a risk factor for erectile dysfunction. More so, undetected cardiovascular disease (damage to the blood vessels) is a major risk factor for ED. Erectile dysfunction can be present for decades and is the early warning sign that most men ignore prior to experiencing a heart attack of stroke.
The most common cause of cardiovascular disease is the big trio – Hypertension, Diabetes and High Cholesterol – also known as Metabolic Syndrome. How many of us have family members and friends who have been diagnosed with these diseases? How many of us have been diagnosed with these conditions ourselves and continue to ignore them? In addition to Metabolic Syndrome, smoking (which is becoming increasingly popular in our community) is another leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Smoking – whether it is cigarette use or other “recreational” – forms results in early blood vessel damage.
Hormone imbalances including low testosterone levels and an underactive thyroid can also affect a man’s performance. As men advance in age, there is the common phenomenon of weight gain, loss of muscle mass and low libido. These two hormones are two key players in this phenomenon. Low testosterone and underactive thyroid function are commonly seen in men with diabetes; however, these conditions generally go undetected.
Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke, can all result in dysfunction. However, diabetes is still the leading cause of damage to the neurological system. Often overlooked psychological conditions, including anxiety, depression, guilt, a history of sexual abuse, marital or relationship problems and stress, can affect the symphony.
So, what can you do?
1. Improve your diet- by cutting out sugars and starches, decreasing your risk of developing Metabolic Syndrome.
2. Get more active.
3. Quit smoking.
4. Work on relationships and decrease stress.
5. See your doctor for a complete evaluation, make sure it includes a blood pressure check, a thorough physical exam and labs to rule out high cholesterol, diabetes and assess your testosterone level and thyroid function.
6. Carefully review your list of prescribed medications with your doctor to rule out potential side effects.