What are the risk factors?

Besides sharing a common disease process, erectile dysfunction and heart disease also share many risk factors, including:

  • Diabetes. Men who have diabetes are at high risk of erectile dysfunction and heart disease.
  • Tobacco use. Smoking increases your risk of developing vascular disease and can cause erectile dysfunction.
  • Alcohol Use. Drinking too much alcohol can cause heart disease and might contribute to other causes of heart disease, such as high blood pressure or abnormal cholesterol. Alcohol also impairs erections.
  • High blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure damages the lining of your arteries and accelerates the process of vascular disease. Certain high blood pressure medications, such as thiazide diuretics, can also affect sexual function.
  • High cholesterol. A high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis.
  • Age. As you get older, erections might take longer to develop and might not be as firm. The younger you are, the more likely that erectile dysfunction signals a risk of heart disease. Men younger than 50 are at especially high risk. In men older than 70, erectile dysfunction is much less likely to be a sign of heart disease.
  • Obesity. Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors for heart disease.
  • Low testosterone. Men with low testosterone have higher rates of erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease compared to men with normal testosterone levels.

What are the treatment options for erectile dysfunction caused by heart disease?

If your doctor thinks you might be at risk of heart disease, consider making lifestyle changes. Increase your physical activity, maintain a healthy weight, stop smoking and drink alcohol only in moderation — or not at all. However, further tests or treatment might be needed if you have more-serious signs and symptoms of heart disease.

If you have both erectile dysfunction and heart disease, talk to your doctor about treatment options. If you take certain heart medications, especially nitrates, it is not safe to use many of the medications used to treat erectile dysfunction.

Aug. 01, 2015 See more In-depth