Erectile dysfunction patients on the Mediterranean diet may lower heart attack and stroke risk. Lead researcher Dr. Athanasios Angelis explained, “Erectile dysfunction is not a symptom of ageing, it is a bad sign from the body that something is wrong with the vasculature. In 80 percent of cases, erectile dysfunction is caused by vascular problems and is a warning that patients are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. The Mediterranean diet is associated with lower cardiovascular events and could be a way to help erectile dysfunction patients lower their risk. We wanted to investigate whether patients with erectile dysfunction who follow this diet have less vascular and cardiac damage.”
The study involved 75 men with erectile dysfunction whose adherence to the Mediterranean diet was assessed with the Med-Diet Score1 which ranks patients as high (30-55), intermediate (21-29), or low (0-20) based on their intake of foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet, such as fruit, vegetables, fish, dairy, wine, cereals, and olive oil.
Vascular function was also assessed by measuring plaque formation along the artery walls and fatty deposits on the inner lining of arteries.
The researchers found that a lower Med-Diet Score correlated with poorer vascular health and overall heart function. Dr. Angelis added, “Patients with erectile dysfunction who had unhealthy diets had more vascular and cardiac damage than those who followed the Mediterranean diet. Previous studies have shown that patients with erectile dysfunction have vascular damage, but we found that the heart is also damaged. This may help to further explain why these patients are more prone to cardiovascular events. The formation of atheroma, the stiffening of the arteries, and the poor functioning of the heart can eventually lead to a cardiac event.”
“Our findings suggest that adopting the Mediterranean diet can improve the cardiovascular risk profile of patients with erectile dysfunction and may reduce their chances of having a heart attack or stroke. This needs to be tested in a larger study,” he added.
Dr. Angelis recommends simple lifestyle adjustments for improving heart health along with erectile dysfunction. He explained that patients shouldn’t look at the Mediterranean diet as a prescription, but rather a lifestyle in order to improve and maintain overall good health. Making a switch towards the Mediterranean style of eating involves boosting one’s intake of fish, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, and other staple foods of the diet.
Link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease
The link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease has long been established. In early studies, it was believed that the main culprit is lack of blood flow to the penis associated with plaque buildup along the artery walls, but erectile dysfunction preceding heart problems may actually be brought on by the dysfunction of the inner lining of the blood vessels and smooth muscle. This dysfunction causes poor blood supply to the heart and penis, and further contributes to the development of atherosclerosis.
In other studies, erectile dysfunction patients with no obvious cause were later diagnosed with an underlying heart problem. Researchers suggest this connection is just an association, which does not imply any cause-and-effect relationship.
Other risk factors for erectile dysfunction include diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, older age, obesity, and low testosterone. If you suffer from erectile dysfunction but these other risk factors do not apply to you, you may want to get screened for possible heart issues.