It has been estimated that ED (erectile dysfunction) affects approximately 50% of men aged 40 years and older. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is listen to the continues barrage of ads promoting the “little blue pill”, that continues to be an advertising goldmine, despite entering its generic phase. But with all joking aside, cardiologists take ED very seriously because this condition commonly predates the development of heart disease by 3-5 years. To this end and led by my colleague, Dr. Rob Ostfield, we recently addressed the effect of lifestyle therapies in ED. Below are the major takeaways from this review.
- ED promotes ED: The overwhelming majority of ED (erectile dysfunction) cases result from long-standing inflammation and other adverse changes to the inner lining of blood vessels (the endothelium). In other words, factors that lead to ED (endothelial dysfunction) also promote ED (erectile dysfunction). The most common risk factors are cigarette smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
- Weight Loss: In overweight or obese men, weight loss of 5% or greater (accomplished through caloric restriction, low intake of saturated animal fat and 30 minutes of physical activity daily) is associated with improvement ED overweight and obese men.
- Mediterranean Diet: A Mediterranean-style diet, enriched in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fish (see my previous post “Which Diets Are Favored by Cardiologists? “), may improve and in some cases even normalize erectile function.
- Effect of Soy products: While a previous report suggested that soy might be associated with ED due to chemical similarities between soy and estrogen, larger-scaled studies have not demonstrated such an association.
- Improvement in Risk Factors: Quitting smoking and treating other risk factors for heart disease improves ED. In addition, certain medications such as beta-blockers and diuretics (“water pills”) can cause ED and may be switched out for other effective therapies if ED is present.
Dr. Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore and a member of the Nutrition Workgroup, American College of Cardiology and author of “Heal Your Heart” published by Penguin Random House. Make sure to check out his HeartHealth Tip of the Day on Twitter @mmillermd1