In a previous post we discussed some of the many possible causes of erectile dysfunction (ED) in young men. Psychological stressors are among the top contributing factors when a younger man experiences ED, but the issue can also be attributed to lifestyle choices like smoking, alcohol use, and poor diet. However, sometimes treating erectile dysfunction requires more than reducing stress and quitting cigarettes. There may also be underlying medical conditions. This is one of the reasons why it is so critical to get help for your ED – even if you don’t particularly wish to talk about it. Your doctor needs to evaluate you for possible underlying medical causes.
Diabetes and erectile dysfunction
Type 2 diabetes was formerly called adult-onset diabetes. In recent years, however, increasing numbers of younger people are developing the disease. According to WebMD, an estimated 35% to 75% of men with diabetes will develop erectile dysfunction at some point during their lives. The risk increases as a man ages, but poorly controlled diabetes can drastically increase the risk of ED in younger men. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels results in damage to the blood vessels and nerves, which contributes to ED.
If you already have diabetes, talk to your doctor about how to manage your condition through proper diet, regular exercise, and medications. You’ll also need to be diligent about checking your blood sugar levels. If you’re at risk for diabetes, prevention measures are much the same as the methods for managing the disease.
Eat a diet rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates from veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid simple carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar levels and cause insulin resistance over time. Exercising regularly also improves insulin sensitivity.
Thyroid disease and erectile dysfunction
Your thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate your metabolism, but the thyroid also plays a role in regulating sex hormones. If you have thyroid disease, particularly hypothyroidism, you are at a greater risk of having lower levels of testosterone, which contributes to ED. Treating your hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism will help resolve erectile dysfunction, often within six months.
Cardiovascular disease and ED
Cardiovascular disease used to be something that guys only over the age of 40 to 50 worried about. Unfortunately, the prevalence of junk food in Western societies means that increasingly, younger people are developing cardiovascular problems. In fact, one study that included the cadavers of 760 young people (including teens) found alarming amounts of arterial plaque. One fifth of young men in the study (ages 30 to 34) had advanced deposits of plaque inside the coronary artery. Listen up guys, you are more than twice as likely than a woman of your age to have plaque buildup in your arteries.
If you have erectile dysfunction, it is vitally important that your doctor test you for the warning signs of cardiovascular disease. Men with both cardiovascular disease and ED are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack. Cardiovascular disease contributes to ED because the arteries narrow and harden, which reduces blood flow to the penis and all other areas of the body.
Other possible causes of ED in young men
While your doctor is checking you for these possible medical conditions, he will also check your blood pressure. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can also contribute to ED. Other possible causes include blunt trauma to the pelvic region, periodontitis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
Read more in our Erectile Dysfunction Health Center.
Bohm M et al. Erectile dysfunction predicts cardiovascular events in high-risk patients receiving telmisartan, ramipril, or oth: the ONgoing Telmisartan Alone and in combiantion with Ramipril Global Endpoint Trial/Telmisartan Randomized AssessmeNt Study in ACE iNtolerant subjects with cardiovascular disease (ONTARGET/TRANSCEND) Trials. Circulation 2010 Mar 30; 121(12): 1439-46
Schorr M. Early signs of heart disease in young men. ABC News 2012 Jul 24