What Your Erection Can Tell You About Your Heart Health

Could ED indicate heart health issues?

In a month focused on improving Men’s Health, it seems fitting to start the conversation about Erectile Dysfunction (ED) and Heart Disease (HD)/Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). The number one Men’s Health condition in the United States is Heart Disease(HD).1 Some major factors contributing to HD are physical inactivity, poor diet and exercise habits, and depression. Recently, the presence of ED has also been linked to HD & CAD in a big way and may even save your life.2

How does ED have anything to do with HD/CAD? Very simply, the penis and the heart are both highly vascularized organs responsible for moving blood through chambers for optimal function.  The blood vessels of the penis are much smaller than the blood vessels in the heart and will likely show signs of CAD before the heart does. That means that the presence of ED could be an early indicator of HD.3 By recognizing ED as a HD indicator, men can make changes to their diet, exercise habits, stress management routine, and possibly start medications to help them improve their health.

Often the presence of ED is viewed as an expected side effect of aging and is not discussed with their doctor or at times, even with their partner.  Normalizing discussion about sexual performance as part of Men’s Annual Physicals is a helpful option to greatly lower the risk of HD/CAD. Several tools have been developed to qualify erectile hardness. The International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF)4and the Erectile Hardness Scale (EHS)5 can be filled out by the patient and reviewed by the doctor.  This can be an important starting point for recognizing HD/CAD and starting early intervention.

Another great option for men experiencing ED is a screening with a Pelvic Physical Therapist. Pelvic Physical Therapists have expertise in improving sexual function, bowel, and bladder function. Pelvic Physical Therapy is not just a great option to discuss symptoms of ED, but also a great option to treat ED.  Pelvic Physical Therapists treat ED by strengthening and stretching the little-known muscles of the pelvic floor, retraining your genital nervous system, and helping with behavioral changes to achieve and maintain an erection. Since ED is an indicator of HD/CAD, pelvic physical therapists are key medical providers to both treat your ED and improve your heart health.

Adding a Pelvic Physical Therapist to your medical team is a great decision for your overall health.

References:

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/mens-health.htm
  2. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/special-heart-risks-for-men
  3. Washmuth, Nicholas, et al. Using Erection Hardness as a Vital Sign. Physical Therapy Vol 130. Sept. 29, 2022.
  4. Mulhall, John P., MD, et al. Validation of the Erection Hardness Score. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. September 21, 2007
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/figure/The-IIEF-5-questionnaire-a_tbl1_12677930

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If you’re ready to start therapy to get your life back, contact us today and book your first session.

Written by:

Brooke Erstad, PT, DPT, WCS, CAPPBROOKE ERSTAD
Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certificate of Achievement in Pelvic Physical Therapy, Women’s Health Certified Specialist
Brooke can be reached at brooke@apexptwellness.com

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