Each year, approximately more than 650,000 people die of heart disease in the United States, a rate that translates to one in four deaths – and 20% of those victims are under the age of 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). ). Men tend to develop heart disease an average of 10 years earlier than women, making them particularly vulnerable to the possibility of a premature heart attack, stroke or other acute health episode. cardiac. Now, experts are spreading the word about a particular red flag that many men display, often without connecting the dots to their heart health. Read on to find out why having this symptom in your 40s skyrockets your risk of heart disease in your 50s, and why treating its underlying causes could save your life.

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Research shows that men’s sexual health is directly linked to their heart health, thanks to common underlying factors. Having low testosterone, being stressed, and having more belly fat are all factors that contribute to both sexual dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.

In fact, a Johns Hopkins Medicine expert writes that some forms of sexual dysfunction are considered “the canary in the coal mine” among medical professionals. “Sexual problems often herald heart problems,” they explain.

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couple in bed sad erectile dysfunction having sex

One form of sexual dysfunction in particular can predict future heart disease: erectile dysfunction (ED). According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, erectile dysfunction in midlife has been associated with an 80% increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years, even in the absence of other risk factors.

Although many men consider this problem a normal part of aging, experts say that experiencing ongoing erectile dysfunction almost always indicates an underlying medical problem. “One of the main reasons erectile dysfunction is considered a barometer of overall cardiovascular health is that the penis, like the heart, is a vascular organ,” the site explains. “Because its arteries are much smaller than those of the heart, arterial damage appears there first, often years before symptoms of heart disease.”

In fact, other experts say erectile dysfunction is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease. “Erectile dysfunction is as much a risk factor for heart disease as a history of smoking or a family history of coronary heart disease,” warns the Cleveland Clinic.

A couple's feet next to each other in bed.
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Men may overlook erectile dysfunction when their symptoms don’t match their understanding of the condition. “Many people think erectile dysfunction is the inability to get an erection, but an early sign of the condition is not being able to maintain an erection long enough to have satisfying sex,” says Johns’ expert. Hopkins.

Being unable to have an erection less than 20% of the time is considered normal and not a cause for medical concern. However, if it happens half the time or more, there is likely a physical or psychological problem, explains the Cleveland Clinic.

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The good news? Your doctor can help you treat the causes of erectile dysfunction. “Treatment of the underlying medical condition leads to the reduction of atherosclerotic plaques, thereby improving blood flow. Therefore, although men with erectile dysfunction may not have an obvious heart problem, they should undergo a screening for heart disease, especially before starting treatment for erectile dysfunction.” Submitting SahgalMD, Chief Physician of Essen Health Care says Better life.

Your doctor will most likely begin any emergency workup by addressing risk factors for heart disease, including pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, or concerns about your weight. They may also want to screen for kidney disease, prostate cancer, and neurological conditions — all of which can cause erectile dysfunction — before making their recommendations.

However, there are many simple changes you can make today, even before your next appointment. “Any lifestyle change that improves heart health also improves penile health,” says the Mayo Clinic. “Increase your physical activity, maintain a healthy weight, quit smoking, and drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all,” they suggest.

Speak with your doctor to discuss the procedures and treatments that may be right for you.

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