By Robert Allen Moore III, PA-C, MPAS, MPH
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to attain and/or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance, according to the American Urological Association. ED is estimated to affect up to 30 million men in the US and 150 million worldwide, so it’s a common complaint seen in urology and primary care.
ED can certainly have psychological components and causes, but for the majority of men there is an underlying physiological cause. The most common underlying mechanism for ED is thought to be vascular.
This is sometimes a surprise to people, but ED and cardiovascular disease (CVD) share many common risk factors. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity and sedentary lifestyle.
The good news is that people can do something about their risk for ED, because all of these risk factors are modifiable to some degree. The easy thing to remember is erectile health is heart health. Adopting a heart healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean or DASH diets, could lead to improvements in several of the risk factors.
People with diabetes and ED should work with their primary care physician to lower their hemoglobin A1C by adjusting diet and medications. Quitting smoking is by far the most impactful thing a person can do for their overall health, including ED.
Aerobic activity is equally important to improving vascular function and blood flow. Aerobic activity can be high- or low-intensity, but essentially it is all about getting the heart rate up. Think brisk walking, jogging or hiking.
Anyone thinking about starting a new exercise regimen should discuss it with their primary care physician. I like to remind my patients it is never too late to begin working on these aspects of your health. Improvements in even one of these areas may help prevent progression of ED.
Talk to Your Doctor
Finally, I would like to say, please talk about it. If this is an important part of your quality of life, then feel free to discuss it with your provider. It’s not simply a normal part of aging, and there are now several treatment options at our disposal, ranging from medication to surgery.
Robert Allen Moore III, PA-C, MPAS, MPH, is a certified physician assistant with Mission Urology.