The penis is a dangling stress test and may be a predictor of impending heart disease.
Most men would never make the connection between their penis and heart — but it exists. Men should think of their penis as a thermometer for the heart. When the arteries in one part of your body are clogged, you can expect arteries to be filling up with sticky cholesterol-like plaque in other parts of the body as well.
Heart doctors have long understood this concept, routinely ultra-sounding the arteries of the neck (carotids) to provide a barometer for the tiny arteries (coronaries) that supply the heart.
Now, a new study provides evidence that the penis is another crucial barometer of arterial disease. The study, published in the August 2015 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, reveals that men with erectile dysfunction and depression are much more likely to go on to develop heart disease than those without ED.
A team of Italian researchers screened 1687 patients with erectile dysfunction and found that men with ED who were also depressed were much more likely to have a heart attack or angina. ED is clearly an alert to larger emotional and physical problems including heart disease.
Here’s the explanation of the penis-heart connection: The arteries that supply the penis are only able to provide a strong sustained erection when they are working perfectly. So ED is often an indication that something is wrong with your arteries, and since the arteries of the penis are smaller than the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries), they tend to get clogged earlier. ED usually occurs before heart disease occurs. The penis is a likely barometer, a canary in the coal mine, for impending problems in the coronary arteries.
Of course, ED can be caused by many different things, including low testosterone, medication side effects, and depression alone. Not all patients with ED have arterial problems or will go on to have problems with their hearts. But a significant number will. We recommend all men who begin having problems getting erections to see their doctor for a thorough total body examination. And the concept of formally screening men for heart disease on the basis of ED should be investigated further.
An ideal study would separate men into two groups; one with erectile dysfunction, and one without. Each group would be followed to see which men went on to develop heart problems and which didn’t. In the meantime, there is every reason to consider ED as a warning sign for heart disease and a window into problems in a man’s total health.
Impotence, aka erectile dysfunction, is not often the easiest topic to discuss but it affects more men than we likely realize. As many as 50 million men in the US and Europe suffer from impotence, or erectile dysfunction. Statistically, this number includes only about 5% of men less than 40 years old and up to 25% of men by the time they reach 65 years of age. By definition, impotence is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.
Erectile dysfunction is almost always referred to as an older man’s disease, but this just isn’t the case. About 26% of men under the age of 40 are affected by ED according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Bottom Line: One could guess that impotence at a young age could be the first sign of a potential heart attack later in life. So if you have difficulty with obtaining or maintaining an erection, speak to your doctor and consider getting a comprehensive examination including a thorough heart examination.