Men’s sexual health and heart health are undeniably linked. When you address important issues such as low testosterone and erectile dysfunction you’re also addressing other critical aspects of your health.
It’s as important to understand both how sexual health and heart health are connected as it is to understand the treatment options available. Nearly daily men ask their doctors questions like “does low testosterone cause heart problems” or “Is there a connection between erectile dysfunction and heart disease?” The short answer is yes, but read on.
When men have these conversations with their physicians they have a much higher likelihood of discovering or preventing cardiovascular issues early, maybe even years earlier than if they wait and do nothing. Doing nothing is unfortunately a hallmark of many men’s approach to their sexual health until they experience certain difficulties such as issues with erections. Even then many still wait thinking it’s a function of aging.
Regular check-ups are as important for men as they are for women. Even if you “feel fine”, you should approach sexual health as you would any routine check-up. Women book regular annual appointments for their sexual and reproductive health, but with so few true men’s sexual health specialists in the field, many men never consider the importance of doing the same or don’t know when or where to seek help.
The connection between heart health and men’s sexual health is undeniable. 50 percent of men who die from ischemic heart disease reportedly had no previous heart symptoms before their deaths, and between 70% to 89% of sudden cardiac arrests occur in men. However, many times, erectile dysfunction will be the early warning symptom that could head off a devastating event.
What is Cardiovascular Disease?
Before we dive into heart health and how its linked to men’s sexual health we need to take a look at what cardiovascular disease is and what we can do to prevent it.
Cardiovascular disease is a term that covers many issues including heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems.
Some symptoms of cardiovascular disease include:
- Chest pain or chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Pain, numbness, weakness or coldness in your legs or arms
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back
There are several causes of heart disease but often they are caused by poor but correctable lifestyle behaviors with unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight, and smoking at the top of the list. Prevention is key to avoiding future issues. We encourage an overall health conversation with our patients to better understand their risk profiles and to help them create a health plan that will keep them as healthy as possible for the rest of their life.
If you have a family history of cardiovascular issues, it’s especially important to be aware of your heart health and make healthy lifestyle decisions to prevent issues from occurring.
What is Testosterone and What are the Symptoms of Low T?
Testosterone is an important hormone for men. It’s also core to good reproductive health. Testosterone is the hormone in men that serves as the primary sex hormone, and is responsible for the development of male sex organs and creates male physical characteristics. It also affects sexual drive and impacts mood and energy. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when testosterone gets low it leads to lower libido, a poor mood, and lack of energy.
Low testosterone is a natural effect of aging in men. In fact, testosterone levels can lower 1-2% every year beginning around the age of 40. Symptoms of low testosterone include low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and low energy. Even though low testosterone is common among aging men, the symptoms are hard to live with on a daily basis and for many men, generally unnecessary. A thorough health exam followed by a comprehensive treatment plan that is managed by man and sometimes medicine can have you back in the saddle and feeling great in no time.
How is low testosterone diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will take a blood sample and test for “serum testosterone”. It may be necessary to take this test several times since testosterone levels can change depending on the time of the day and other variables. Testosterone levels are measured on a range. Normal male testosterone levels range from 300 to 1,200 nanograms per deciliter. Even if your testosterone levels test below 300, it doesn’t necessarily mean that low testosterone is a chronic issue which is why multiple tests are needed to make an appropriate diagnosis.
Providers should also consider other factors of your health including chronic illnesses, medications, diet, sleeping patterns, and more. These are all important to ensure that you get a correct diagnosis and treatment.
Did you know that you can test as having low testosterone, but it’s not necessarily your testes that are failing you? You may be having other issues that lower testosterone levels including diabetes/pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney problems, obesity, or other chronic issues. This would mean that receiving testosterone treatment won’t be as effective because the core issue isn’t being addressed. Treating the whole man is the key to strong testosterone markers at every age. There is no reason a 70 year old man shouldn’t have a firm erection, vibrant energy, and be clear headed as he heads out into his day.
Testosterone and Heart Health
It’s hard for researchers to fully understand all the causes of heart disease. There are many contributing factors including family history, diet, age, gender, blood pressure, chronic diseases like diabetes, and more.
It’s hard to definitively say if or how low testosterone causes heart problems but we do know they’re linked.
Can low testosterone cause heart problems?
If you suspect you have low testosterone levels, it’s recommended you get tested. Low T levels have been shown to increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease (CAD). For men with congestive heart failure (CHF), it’s a warning of something more serious including increased likelihood of mortality. CHF also involves multiple pathways including the endocrine system and low T levels were found in all classes of heart failure.
Whether low T causes negative cardiovascular events or is merely associated with them has yet to be determined, but regardless of a clear distinction between the two, testosterone levels should be monitored closely to ensure better heart health.
There is however another connection between low T and erectile dysfunction to explore, which is another important aspect of men’s sexual health.
Low Testosterone and Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Low T can contribute to erectile dysfunction, but treatment for low testosterone hasn’t proven to correct ED. Studies show that not all patients who have ED and low testosterone saw an improvement in erectile function after receiving testosterone treatment.
Erections are clearly dependent on hormones like testosterone. What isn’t clear is the level of testosterone where ED occurs in men. Although disorders of the endocrine system (your hormone system) are the rarest cause of ED, among that category, hypogonadism is the most common cause. Hypogonadism is the reduction or absence of hormone secretion from the testes. There is, however, little evidence to suggest that treating hypogonadism would, in fact, improve erectile function.
One study even suggests that although both, hypogonadism and erectile dysfunction, can occur in a male at the same time, they may not even be causally related.That means erections don’t require normal testosterone levels. Even after correcting testosterone levels, a man can still have erectile dysfunction. All of this research suggests ED’s main cause is not a hormone issue. So if not a direct result of low testosterone, men’s main sex hormone, what’s to blame?
Erectile Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Issues
The connection between testosterone and heart health exists, although that connection is not as clear as health professionals and researchers would like. Erectile dysfunction, on the other hand, is more widely documented and is an incredibly important factor in helping men address their existing or potential cardiovascular issues.
What is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
Erectile dysfunction is difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Having an occasional issue with an erection can happen to many men, however, once you get to a point where erection problems occur more than half of the time, it’s time to seek medical help regarding ED.
Many men are embarrassed and don’t seek help, which means they often remain undiagnosed and untreated. For that reason, we’ve made it our top priority to ensure patients feel comfortable discussing sexual health with us.
There are many factors that can cause erectile dysfunction. As we mentioned earlier, many people mistakenly believe low testosterone is a major cause of ED, but there are other more likely causes and it’s important to have a full physical exam to determine those causes. Often times, ED indicates other underlying health issues including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or type 2 diabetes. There may also be psychological issues causing or exacerbating ED.
Other causes for erectile dysfunction include:
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Substance abuse
- Sleep disorders
- Prostate cancer
Can Erectile Dysfunction be a Sign of Cardiovascular Disease?
Poor ability to maintain an erection is an early marker of vascular disease. One study suggests that erectile dysfunction increases among men from the ages of 40 to 69 who have diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. If you engage in an unhealthy lifestyle and fail to treat known cardiovascular issues, your ED will not only continue, it’ll worsen over time.
Another recent study says that erectile dysfunction is an independent predictor of future cardiovascular problems across all ethnicities. Almost 2,000 participants were analyzed for over three years, and it was discovered that those with ED had a significantly greater chance of cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t report having erection issues. The study concluded this provided the strongest evidence so far that ED was a strong predictor of future cardiovascular issues.
A 2013 study says that erectile issues often precede cardiovascular diseases and is often present with those who already have cardiovascular problems. The study suggests that if a person knows they have cardiovascular disease, then they should also be asked about erectile function. Otherwise, this could lead to undiagnosed ED having a significant negative impact on a man and his partner. Address ED as early as possible to prevent future problems.
Sometimes you may not notice any heart issues until you have a heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. This is why it’s important to notice any possible symptoms, including erectile dysfunction, and report it to your physician. Cardiovascular disease can be detected early on if you are proactive about it, and it is easier and more effective to treat it in the early stages.
This is why at The Billups Center we believe in providing thorough medical examinations. A full assessment helps us determine the exact cause of erectile dysfunction in an individual so we can create an appropriate treatment plan and involve other professionals when necessary. It also allows us and you to communicate about your health with your primary care doctor.Your health is a team effort and each of us, especially you, play a key role.
Erectile Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Disease Treatment
So what is the best way to treat erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease?
ED & cardiovascular issues are often linked to poor nutrition, and changing your diet is one thing you can do immediately to help reverse your symptoms. One recent study took 740 participants from four countries and recorded the effects of that lifestyle modification. The adjustments were associated with a statistically significant improvement in sexual function, and the changes the participants made have also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Here are some suggestions to help maintain a healthy lifestyle:
- Stop smoking
If you or someone in your household smokes, now is the time to quit. It’s a tough habit to break, but there are lots of resources to help you quit including advice from your doctor.
- Choose good nutrition
A healthy diet is the best way to fight many health problems including cardiovascular issues, cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure. Choose nutrient-dense foods and limit your intake of sugar.
- Lose excess weight
Obesity is a problem in America, and it affects your body by increasing your chances of getting high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes which also increases the likelihood of getting a cardiovascular disease.
- Be physically active
Keep your body healthy by being physically active. If you are struggling with this, start out with a few minutes and then slowly increase your activity level. It’s recommended to exercise at a moderate level for at least 150 minutes per week.
- Manage your diabetes
If you have diabetes, then it’s critical to take care of it. Monitoring your blood sugar can prevent even more serious health issues in the future including cardiovascular problems.
- Reduce stress
Not all stress is avoidable, but you can learn healthy ways to cope with reducing stress. Learn stress management tools to lower chances of heart disease.
- Limit alcoholic drinking
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and other problems. It’s best to monitor what you’re drinking to ensure you stay within recommended limits.
The Billups Center team provides full and comprehensive exams to ensure you and every patient gets a personalized examination and medical treatment plan. We take the time to properly educate, evaluate, and monitor treatment. Your visit at The Billups center is not like most visits where the doctor is in and out before you finish your thought. We spend the amount of time necessary to understand you as a patient and as a man.
When you schedule an appointment with us, we’ll not only successfully evaluate and treat your sexual health concerns, but we’ll also address all aspects of your health and help you proactively approach any chronic medical conditions or underlying health issues.
We specialize and focus on men’s sexual health only, but because there’s such a strong connection to other health issues we also work closely with other healthcare providers and specialists to ensure your overall health gets treated properly as well. Request an appointment today to and discover how we can help you feel young again.