Men, don’t die of embarrassment
09 February 2016
Having trouble downstairs? It’s a sensitive issue but ‘performance issues’ could actually be an early indicator of heart disease.
Valentine's Day and sex, the two go together like, well, you
know. But evidence suggests that men who have issues in the bedroom
may have issues of the heart, not in the love sense, but potential
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the persistent inability to
maintain a penile erection sufficient for a satisfactory sexual
performance, it is often the source of jokes and titters, and it's
not generally something either partner goes round admitting. But
silence could be a killer in the form of a heart attack waiting to
Crucially this isn't something impacting just older men it can
also affect younger men in their early 40s due to lifestyle
choices, which is exactly why there are more young people being
seen with diabetes as well.
Staff from the cardiac and medical day stay centre at Southend
University Hospital are now hoping to raise awareness of this issue
and help safe lives of Essex men.
Emma Matthews, a sister on the ward, said: "For men it can feel
like losing part of their masculinity, just in the same way as some
women say they can feel less like a women if they lose a breast.
And that can have a serious effect on a marriage or relationship
which then causes depression. This only adds to the heart disease
issue so other related side effects of the condition are just as
Sharon Wallace, also a sister on the ward, added: "Men are
renowned for not speaking up about health issues or going to see
their doctor, and especially something that could be seen as being
embarrassing like erectile dysfunction. It's important they and
their partners get past that and look at the more serious health
implications as a large number of men with erectile dysfunction
show early signs of coronary artery disease (CAD), and this group
may develop more severe CAD than men with erectile
How is it an early indicator?
Sharon said: "The blood vessels of the penis are smaller than
those of the heart, the diameter of a piece of dry spaghetti in
comparison to that of a drinking straw. Because of this it can
become what is often referred to as becoming furred up, that's the
inside of arteries becoming narrower.
"With less blood passing through the penile artery the result
can be 'unsatisfactory', and that isn't the sort of thing that
someone casually drops into conversation. If erectile dysfunction
is caused by narrowed arteries then there is significant risk of
This furring up process can occur due to high blood pressure,
diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, being overweight or being
physically inactive. To combat its onset it's the usual balanced
lifestyle message of low salt, low cholesterol, a low calorie diet,
exercise, quitting smoking and medications. All of which have been
reported to improve function.
So what can be done?
Emma said: "If anyone or their partner is experiencing ED then
they should book an appointment with their GP. It doesn't have to
be if it happens once or twice but whenever it becomes a concern or
a significant issue.
"A GP may talk to them about any other symptoms that they are
experiencing and that could flag up something more serious, in that
instance they may get referred to a specialist or to an erectile
The time interval between the onset of ED symptoms and the
occurrence of coronary artery disease symptoms and a cardiovascular
event, such as a heart attack, is estimated at two to five years.
That's not long but there is a real window of opportunity for
aggressive risk factor reduction, such as medication and weight
loss. The earlier it can be diagnosed the better.
Sharon concluded: "When people come to use we already know about
their heart disease, this is about raising awareness in men of all
ages and trying to prevent that situation. Erectile dysfunction is
a critical predictor of cardiovascular disease, so if this article
helps just one person recognise the relationship between erectile
dysfunction and coronary artery disease then it will help improve
and save lives. The early warning signs are there but people just
need to know where to look."
The message is clear, erectile dysfunction may be seen to be
humiliating by its sufferers, but they certainly shouldn't die of