One common disorder is erectile dysfunction (ED). In the United States, about 30 million men are estimated to be affected. Men with ED are having a difficult time getting an erection and maintaining it.
It occurs sometimes with most men not being able to get or sustain an erection. ED is diagnosed when a man has trouble regularly.
ED is caused by a range of factors including poor heart health. High cholesterol levels can have an effect on your heart health.
Will high cholesterol treatment help treat ED, too? Research suggests it can have a slight effect.
What the research says
Atherosclerosis is the most common cause of ED which is a narrowing of the blood vessels.
Many can lead to atherosclerosis, including high cholesterol. This is because high blood cholesterol levels can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries. That, in turn, can narrow those vessels of blood.
Researchers have also established a link between ED and high cholesterol, otherwise known as hypercholesterolemia. The relation is not yet completely understood, but it has prompted researchers to explore the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs to treat ED.
Statins and erectile dysfunction (ED)
Statins are drugs for reducing cholesterol levels. Researchers reported changes in erectile function after treatment of high cholesterol with atorvastatin (Lipitor) in a 2017 study on rats. Niveaus of lipids remained unchanged.
The researchers concluded that better erectile function was not the result of a decline in cholesterol levels, but rather an endothelium improvement. An internal surface in the blood vessels in the endothelium.
An earlier review of the literature from 2014 also found evidence that over time, statins could improve ED.
On the other hand, a 2009 study found evidence suggesting that lipid-lowering drugs can cause or aggravate ED. Men have recovered from ED in more than half of the reported cases after they stopped taking statins.
A review of a cohort in 2015 found no link between statins and increased risk of ED or sexual dysfunctions. ED is not mentioned as a common side effect of statins, either. More research is needed to understand better the relationship between statins and ED.
Cholesterol, Diet, and ED
Eating foods rich in cholesterol would not inherently impact the cholesterol levels in your blood. That said, what you eat still has the power to influence your ED. Recent studies indicate that eating a healthy diet, especially the Mediterranean diet, can lead to improved symptoms.
Mediterranean diet staples include:
- fish and other seafood, such as shrimp and oysters
- fruits, such as apples, grapes, strawberries, and avocados
- vegetables, such as tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, and onions
- whole grains, such as barley and oats
- healthy fats, such as olives and extra-virgin olive oil
- nuts, such as almonds and walnuts
Some of the items you should avoid:
- foods high in trans fats, such as margarine, frozen pizza, and fast food
- foods made with added sugar
- certain vegetable oils, including canola oil
- processed meats and other foods
A chronic deficiency of vitamin B-12 can also lead to ED, so consider adding B-12-rich foods to your diet. Try taking an extra B-12 too. Read more on the Diet-ED connection.
Other risk factors for ED
- type 2 diabetes
- chronic kidney disease (CKD)
- multiple sclerosis (MS)
- plaque buildup in the penis
- surgeries for bladder cancer
- injuries caused by treatment for prostate cancer
- injuries to the penis, spinal cord, bladder, pelvis, or prostate
- drinking, smoking or using certain drugs
- mental or emotional stress
Some medications can also cause erection problems. Including:
- blood pressure medications
- prostate cancer therapy
- prescription sedatives
- appetite suppressants
- ulcer drugs
As soon as you find any erection issues you should see your doctor. ED is typically a symptom of an underlying health problem, so finding the cause is important before it gets more serious.
Watch for ED symptoms such as:
- The inability to erect when you want sex, even though you can get an erection at other times
- Get an erection but can’t hold it long enough to have sex
- Not being able to get an erection
High cholesterol does not cause noticeable symptoms so a blood test is the best way to diagnose the disorder. You should have daily activity so your doctor can identify and treat any early-stage health problems.
Your doctor can also ask for some laboratory tests, such as a test for testosterone levels and a psychological evaluation to diagnose your ED.
There are various ways to treat ED, from everyday lifestyle improvements to regular drugs. Options for treating ED include:
- talk therapy or couples counseling
- switching medications if you suspect a medication is causing ED
- testosterone replacement therapy (TRT)
- using a penis pump
Medications can also be used to treat ED symptoms including:
- Avanafil (Avana), sildenafil (Kamagra oral jelly), tadalafil (tadalista), and Vardenafil (Vilitra)
- the injectable form of alprostadil (Caverject, Edex)
- the pill suppository form of alprostadil (MUSE)
In addition to diet, there are other improvements in lifestyle that may help lower high cholesterol levels and improve ED. Try those options:
According to Harvard Health Publishing, walking 30 minutes a day will reduce the risk of ED by 41 percent.
Staying physically fit
Obesity represents a significant risk factor for ED. A survey carried out in 2014 found that 79 percent of men considered overweight or obese had erectile problems.
Maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active will help avoid or cure ED. This also involves avoiding smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.
Exercising your pelvic floor
Kegel exercises to reinforce your pelvic floor can help keep an erection going longer.
Researchers haven’t found high cholesterol to be a direct cause of ED, but the disorder may lead to erection issues. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will minimize your cholesterol levels, thus reducing your risk of developing ED as well.
If you have concerns about your cholesterol or erectile problems, talk with your doctor. They will help you build a treatment plan which works best for you.