Most men believe that their ED is temporary and is caused by stress at work, perhaps issues in the relationship, by some meds they are taking, or simply a lack of rest. All these causes are quite valid, but the sad truth is that in a large portion of cases, ED is caused by a serious chronic health condition that the man knows nothing about! In fact, erectile dysfunction can often be one of the first signs of a disease that can develop without any other symptoms and suddenly lead to death. A great number of lives (and a tremendous amount of public money) could be saved if only men took their ED more seriously and invested more effort into searching for its cause.
Here at My Canadian Pharmacy, we place our customers’ health first. We don’t just sell pills – we strive to educate our clients in the matters of health and physiology to help them make more informed choices when buying medications. Today we offer you a short overview of dangerous (and often lethal) health conditions that can cause ED.
Cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction
Cardiovascular disease is the second leading cause of death in Canada, accounting for over 25% of all deaths (the first being cancer, with 30% of deaths). These deaths include heart attack, heart failure, sudden death, and stroke. Among the factors of highest risk for cardiovascular death are atherosclerosis (clogging of arteries) and high blood pressure. One of the main dangers of cardiovascular disease is that it often develops without any symptoms until it becomes too late: in fact, 50% of men who die of heart attack and stroke have no prior history of the disease at all! This means they always felt fine and didn’t think there was any need to go to the doctor… until one day they just died.
The connection between heart and blood vessel issues and erectile dysfunction is complex but very clear: among men with diagnosed heart disease, the prevalence of ED is 3 times (!) higher than among men with a healthy cardiovascular system. How does the connection work?
Up until very recently, it was believed that atherosclerosis directly causes ED: indeed, cholesterol plaques partly block the blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the penis. (We often think of arteries around the heart as getting blocked by cholesterol, but in fact this applies to other vessels in the body, include the genitals area). However, a recent study has shown that the mechanism is different: cholesterol plaques damage the lining of the blood vessels, which normally produced nitric oxide – a compound that plays a key role in the erection process. By contrast, cells that produce PDE5 (the compound that prevents the smooth muscle from relaxing) are not damaged. As a result, there is not enough nitric oxide and too much PDE5: what we get is erectile dysfunction. ED drugs like Viagra, Cialis, and other potent and efficient pills inhibit PDE5, producing a strong erection. However, if the blood vessel lining (endothelium) is being slowly destroyed by cholesterol, a man will eventually face much more serious consequences than just ED.
As for hypertension, it can remain completely unnoticed for years, but it keeps damaging the endothelium, too: blood vessels become hard and narrow, and blood flow is reduced (all over the body, not only in the penis, of course). Hypertension is known as a silent killer for a reason! Even if you feel completely fine, make sure to measure your blood pressure regularly – a small device more measuring pressure at home is a good investment that can save your life.
- What you can do. A healthy diet and lifestyle is key. Try to eliminate processed foods and reduce your consumption of sat, sugar, and saturated fats. Include more whole grains, healthy fats (like olive oils and fish) vegetables, and fruit in your diet; eat less pizza and burgers and more lean grilled meat and fish. Exercise at least 3 times a week.
Diabetes and erectile dysfunction
Although not many men in Canada die from diabetes itself (that is, after going into an insulin coma), this disease is a major contributing cause of death: mortality rates among diabetics are twice higher than among the whole population. Just like cardiovascular disease, diabetes often develops for years without any clear signs (there are symptoms like thirst and needing to urinate during the night, but a lot of men tend to disregard them), so diabetes is often diagnosed at a late stage, when the patient suddenly starts feeling very ill.
In people suffering from diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce normal amounts of the hormone insuline, which is responsible for transferring sugar out of the blood and into various tissues of the body. As a result, the concentration of sugar in the blood becomes very high, eventually causing damage to blood vessels – that is how diabetes causes ED.
According to statistics, up to 75% of men who have diabetes will also develop erectile dysfunction at some point. What’s more, diabetics tend to develop ED 15 years earlier than men who do not suffer from this disease. Diabetes is very often accompanied by other ED risk factors, such as obesity and hypertension, exacerbating the negative effect on potency.
- What you can do. If some of your family members have diabetes, remember that you are in the group of high risk – get tested for blood sugar at least once a year! However, even if nobody in your family suffers from diabetes, you can still develop this condition if you make wrong lifestyle choices. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential, as well as exercise: research shows that an efficient anti-diabetes fitness routing should include both aerobic training and resistance activities (for example, a combination of running and indoor rock climbing, or lifting weights combined with swimming). Take care of what you eat, too: interestingly, whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes. And of course, avoid eating too much sugar!
Metabolic syndrome and erectile dysfunction
Chances are, you’ve never heard about metabolic syndrom (even if you have it), and yet it’s very common.
Metabolic syndrome is a complex condition that is diagnosed when a man (or a woman, but here we are talking about men) has three or more of the following symptoms:
- Low levels of good cholesterol
- High levels of bad cholesterol
- Significant amounts of abdominal fat
- High concentration of tryglicerides (a type of fat) in the blood
- High blood sugar
- High blood pressure.
Metabolic syndrome does not necessarily produce acute symptoms like pain but it can greatly reduce a man’s ability to enjoy life and limit the amoun of activities that a person can do; men with the metabolic syndrome are often obese and feel weak and fatigued. Metabolic syndrome is an extremely important risk factor for cardiovascular disease: this means that you don’t die from the metabolic syndrome itself, but it highly increases your risk of dying.
Most of the constituents of the metabolic syndrome described above (high blood sugar, cholesterol, etc.) have a very damaging effect on the blood vessel lining (endothelium); as a result, the blood flow is impeded, and a proper erection cannot occur.
- What you can do. The advice is the same as for cardiovascular disease and diabetes: lose extra weight, get tested for blood sugar and cholesterol regularly, keep a healthy diet (and avoid fad diets) and make sure to exercise.
Cancer and erectile dysfunction
While most forms of cancer do not affect erections, medical treatment for cancer definitely does. Radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and especially surgery can prevent a man from having an erection. Among various types of cancer surgery, those that involve removing the prostate, rectum, or any other organ in the general vicinity of the penis cause ED in most cases. The reason is nerve damage: clumps of nerves surrounding the prostate, testicles, penis, and rectum are removed together with the tumor. Erection is not just blood flow: the brain needs to give a signal to the body to produce nitric oxide first (this happens when a man is sexually aroused), and that signal is transferred by means of nerves. If the nerves are no longer there, there will be no erection.
Luckily, in most cases some part of the nerves are preserved (now there are many innovative types of surgery that manage to leave them intact), so the connection between the brain and the penis is not severed, meaning that even men suffering from severe ED after a cancer surgery still have hope.
- What you can do. Penile rehabilitation is an important part of recovery after a prostate or colon cancer surgery. It mainly consists of taking low doses of Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, or other highly efficient ED drugs that can be purchased from My Canadian Pharmacy. In fact, many doctors recommend that men start taking them weeks before the surgery! ED pills need to be taken every day, even when no intercourse is planned, since the increased blood flow helps nerves heal faster.
Multiple sclerosis and erectile dysfunction
While erectile dysfunction is usually not the first symptom of MS, it is one of its most common symptoms: over 50% of men suffering from MS also have ED. Multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system and destroys the connections between the brain and other organs of the body – including the penis. The complex mechanism that starts with sexual arousal and proceeds with the brain giving a command to the genitals to fill up with blood and engorge simply stops working. Patients often report that their genitals feel numb, their interest in sex is reduced, and they have trouble reaching an orgasm. On the other hand, psychological effects of MS – such as poor body image, anxiety, and depression – that also cause ED or make it worse.
- What you can do. Scientists still don’t understand what causes MS, and there is no sure way to prevent this autoimmune disease. However, research shows that vitamin D has something to do with it: people with a vitamin D deficiency are at a higher risk of developing MS. Therefore, make sure to spend some time in the sun or at least take vitamin D supplements.
How Viagra can save lives
As you can see, a number of very serious diseases often lead to ED; what’s more, for a long time erectile dysfunction can remain the only visible symptom. Unfortunately, very often men do not seriously consider that their ED can be caused by a chronic illness; and most men are notoriously reluctant to go to doctors, especially to talk about their sexual issues. A professioinal physician, when presented with a case of erectile dysfunction, has to rule out physical causes first; for this purpose, a doctor will measure a patient’s blood pressure and conduct a series of blood test (for sugar, cholesterol, etc.). Since ED tends to appear early in the course of development of the heart disease or diabetes, for example, such tests would allow to discover the illness at an early stage and treat it more efficiently.
Thankfully, the appearance of Viagra (and later Cialis, Levitra, and other ED drugs) on the global market has made erectile dysfunction a more common topic of public discourse, whereas before it used to be taboo. Now men feel mor comfortable discussing erectile dysfunction both with doctors and with their partners; therefore, they have better chances to find out about their dangerous chronic condition before it’s too late.
The team of My Canadian Pharmacy places a top priority on its customers’ health and well-being. We provide a wide range of highly efficient ED pills that will solve the erection issue for most men. However, we stress again and again: if you suffer from ED and are not sure what the cause is, do consult your doctor! Viagra and Cialis will save your sexual life and your relationship; but it’s up to you to take care of your health as a whole.