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The most common cause of erectile dysfunction is atherosclerosis, which is linked to high cholesterol.

To better understand the relationship between hypercholesterolemia and erectile dysfunction, it’s important to understand the risk factors and the causes of the latter. The link between high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction is still being studied, as the research results revealed so far are somewhat contradicting each-other, and are considered inconclusive. Even so, high cholesterol does have a more indirect impact on erectile dysfunction.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (which is commonly referred to as "impotence") is the incapacity to maintain an erection. While a lot of men treat this condition with embarrassment, talking to the doctor and treating a potential underlying cause can reverse the situation.

However, having occasional erection trouble isn’t a sign for concern, as there are many temporary factors which can contribute to a momentary issue. When the problem persists, that could be a warning sign of erectile dysfunction.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Sexual arousal is a two-part process, where both the body and the brain are involved to help one reach the peak of desire. Both men and women can have reduced libido because of physical or emotional troubles.

One of the physical causes for erectile dysfunction is high cholesterol. Some other ones include sleep disorders, smoking and alcohol, obesity and weight gain, diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, atherosclerosis, heart disease, drug abuse, and metabolic syndrome.

However, the most common cause of erectile dysfunction is atherosclerosis. This condition, which is caused by narrowed blood vessels, can be triggered by a number of things, and high cholesterol is one of them. When your cholesterol levels are too high, you can end up having deposits on the artery walls, which lead to plaques, plaque rupture, and blood clot formation.

There are also some psychological causes which can lead to erectile dysfunction, such as anxiety, stress, depression, mental health problems, and others.

Erectile dysfunction and high cholesterol

When the levels of bad cholesterol inside the body start to increase, the body is less capable of releasing all the chemicals and hormones needed for an erection. More specifically, the body isn’t able to release enough nitric oxide, which is an important factor that contributes to the relaxation of the penile tissues.

Another way in which high cholesterol interferes with erectile dysfunction is by affecting the testosterone production. Testosterone is a hormone which is typically found in a male’s testicles (contrary to popular belief, women also make testosterone, which is found in their ovaries).

This hormone is responsible for the male’s sex drive, but is also an important part of the reproduction process, because it helps create sperm. When testosterone levels are low, a number of different problems may arise: men feel less energetic, depressed, are moody, have a decreased sexual appetite, thinner bones, and less body hair.

Erectile dysfunction and statins

Statins are a type of medication prescribed to treat high cholesterol problems. During a 2017 study, researchers have discovered that atorvastatin cholesterol treatment can improve erectile function. What’s even more interesting that the actual reason for this improvement was not the lower cholesterol level, but rather healed endothelium (which is a portion of the insides of blood vessels).

Another study conducted in 2009 showed that men who stopped taking statins recovered from erectile dysfunction. The matter is still being tested, as researchers are wary of giving a final verdict on a potentially direct impact that high cholesterol may have on erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction: Diagnosis

Erectile dysfunction is generally quite easy to diagnose. The doctor will ask a series of questions about your medical history, while also performing a physical exam. However, more in-depth testing may be required if the doctor suspects an underlying cause is at the root of the problem. During this physical exam, doctors may also try to identify if the cause of the erectile dysfunction isn’t of psychological nature.

Some of the tests that doctors may choose to run to check for other medical conditions are:

  • Blood tests that, among others, can identify a series of problems, such as diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol levels, or other health issues.
  • A urine test is also common in such cases, and may also reveal signs of diabetes and other health problems.
  • Ultrasounds may be preferred when the doctor wants to further examine the blood vessels that supply the penis.

Erectile dysfunction: What treatment is available?

Treating erectile dysfunction isn’t normally a complicated process, but it sometimes implies treating the underlying cause first. For example, if you’re having trouble maintaining an erection because you’re going through a period of stress, you will first need to overcome this impediment before your sex drive returns to normal.

Other treatments for erectile dysfunction may include oral medication, suppositories, self-injection meds, testosterone replacement therapy, penis pumps, or penile implants.

Lifestyle changes to battle erectilee dysfunction

Since lifestyle choices are factors that can cause erectile dysfunction, making some changes is required to avoid such problems in the future. Almost every one of the following lifestyle changes is also mandatory if you have high cholesterol problems:

  • Smokers should quit this habit, whether they have erectile dysfunction or high cholesterol.
  • Alcohol should be avoided as well.
  • Obesity is another risk factor for both of these conditions, so proper dieting is required.
  • The lack of physical activity can also lead to any of the two problems, so it’s best to integrate exercising as part of the daily/weekly routine.
Mediterranean diets are the best option for those who have high cholesterol, but also for those with erectile dysfunction. While both categories must avoid processed meat, a high sugar intake, trans fat, and certain oils, some of the recommended foods are fish, whole grains, nuts, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits.

Conclusion

High cholesterol and erectile dysfunction are closely-related to one another, but they can both be symptoms of an underlying medical condition. The good news is that both of these problems is reversible, if they are diagnosed and treated in due time.

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