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Prostate, erections and heart attacks

by Sonia Chartier, on 25 January 2017, Circulation, Men's Health
heart attacks

Sorry, this article isn’t about the link between love and arousal, it’s about mechanics and risk.

And there is indeed a link between heart attacks, erections and, surprisingly, the prostate too…

You’re in tip-top shape, in the prime of life, and not worried about your health, but you’ve noticed that you’re not getting quite as hard as usual. Be careful, because if your erections aren’t firm enough to enable you to have sex, you might have a heart condition.

In fact, men with erectile dysfunction have twice the risk of developing a cardiac problem such as a heart attack or stroke. The more serious the erectile difficulty, the greater the risk of heart disease. An estimated 12% of cardiac events (such as a heart attack) could be avoided if men did more to prevent heart disease as soon as erection problems arose.

Erectile dysfunction and heart diseases

The link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease has been documented in a number of studies and is easily explained from a purely mechanical perspective:

  1. Stroking the penis sends a message to the brain and causes excitement.
  2. The brain sends chemical messengers through the blood, including nitric oxide (NO), to initiate an erection.
  3. The blood vessels in the penis become engorged with blood (expanding to around six times their resting size) and stay that way as long as the mental or physical stiumlation persists.

When you have atherosclerotic plaque (which can lead to heart attacks and strokes):

  • Blood flow is affected, reducing blood flow to the penis and leading to a softer erection.
  • Atherosclerosis interferes with the production of nitric oxide (NO), a lack of which can weaken or prevent an erection.

Moreover, the risk factors of erectile dysfunction have a great deal in common with those of heart disease: diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking, and so on.

As the heart is a muscle, it can be strengthened with exercise, specifically—you guessed it—cardio exercise. You can also take advantage of the benefits of hawthorn berry, an excellent tonic for this particular muscle which needs to stay strong and work tirelessly. Hawthorn strengthens your heart’s contractions, thereby increasing its efficiency and potentially leading a sharp reduction in heart failure symptoms.

And where’s the prostate in all this?

It’s well known that an enlarged prostate can cause all kinds of sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction. But there truly is a direct link between prostate enlargement and heart attacks.

At age 50, enlargement of the prostate affects 50% of men, and the proportion increases with age. A study recently revealed the extent of the problem: among the study subjects, nearly 30% of men with severe symptoms of an enlarged prostate suffered a cardiac event. In these men, the probability was four times higher than those with light to moderate symptoms. In order to relieve light to moderate symptoms and slow prostate growth, saw palmetto is the perfect plant.

So where’s the link between the heart and the prostate?

A severely enlarged prostate doesn’t in itself constitute a risk factor for heart attacks or strokes. However, it can point to a risk that should be taken seriously.  And as with erectile dysfunction, nitric oxide could be the cause. It is thought that reduced blood NO levels cause plaque and affect the elimination of urine, leading to an enlarged prostate.

Note that cardiovascular disease is a risk factor for an enlarged prostate. What’s more, excess weight, inactivity, cholesterol and diabetes are risk factors for both cardiovascular disease and prostate enlargement.

Not so romantic. And now that you know that all these problems are linked to lifestyle, the solution is in your hands!

References:
http://www.harvardprostateknowledge.org/erectile-dysfunction-and-heart-disease-whats-the-connection
http://www.goldjournal.net/article/S0090-4295(11)02089-9/abstract

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