Erectile dysfunction: A sign of heart disease?

The same process that creates heart disease may also cause erectile dysfunction, only earlier. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Erectile dysfunction — difficulty maintaining an erection sufficient for sex — can be an early warning sign of heart problems. Understanding the connections between the two may help you get treatment before heart problems become serious. Likewise, if you have heart disease, getting the right treatment may help with erectile dysfunction.

Clogged arteries: Where erectile dysfunction and heart disease meet

Atherosclerosis (ath-ur-o-skluh-ROE-sis) — sometimes called hardening of the arteries — is the buildup of plaques in the arteries of your body. The smaller arteries in the body, such as in the penis, are the first to get plugged up. The plaque reduces blood flow in the penis, making an erection difficult. Erectile dysfunction is an alert to look for atherosclerosis in larger arteries supplying your heart and other organs and to take steps to treat it. Atherosclerosis also increases your risk of other problems, including aneurysm, stroke and peripheral artery disease.

Aug. 16, 2012 See more In-depth