Erectile dysfunction (ED), or the inability to maintain an erection, is embarrassing and painful enough on its own. But did you know that it’s often associated with other more serious health problems, like heart disease? It might not be easily apparent how ED can predict heart disease, but the two conditions are strongly correlated.

Two of the Types of Fat

Before we dive into exactly how ED can predict heart disease, we need to talk about fat. Fat is not a bad thing. It has many useful purposes. Fat provides cushioning for internal organs and insulation for heat conservation. Your brain structure and cell membranes contain fat. Fat helps your body manufacture hormones.

But there are different kinds of fat. Two of the types of fat are visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is deep within the abdominal cavity. It is sometimes called a beer belly. Subcutaneous fat is superficial and is between the skin and the abdominal wall. Subcutaneous fat is sometimes called love handles.

Visceral and subcutaneous fat are different in location and in function. Visceral fat is more dangerous to your health than subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat increases the risk for several conditions. These include heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic issues. Subcutaneous fat is harmless and doesn’t contribute to health problems.

This is because visceral fat acts as a active endocrine organ. This visceral fat produces hormones and other chemicals that impact the other parts of the body. Visceral fat increases risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, low testosterone, ED, and premature death.

How ED Predicts Heart Disease

Visceral fat and metabolic syndrome are linked to low testosterone and poor erections. Visceral fat contains a high amount of the enzyme aromatase. Aromatase converts testosterone, the male sex hormone, into estrogen, the female sex hormone. Visceral fat can change body composition, strength, and the ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

This is how ED can predict other health conditions. Visceral fat causes both ED and heart disease, and ED may be the first sign of heart disease. The correlation between ED and heart disease is as strong as that between heart disease and other risk factors, like family history, smoking, and high cholesterol.

Changes to Improve Your Quality of Life

You can make lifestyle changes to reduce visceral fat and reverse metabolic syndrome and sexual dysfunction. Eating healthy and exercising can lead to weight loss and belly fat loss. Other changes include smoking cessation, limiting alcohol consumption, and managing stress. Quitting smoking has benefits beyond improving sexual function.

If you’ve tried these suggestions and you’re still suffering from ED, schedule an appointment today.