High cholesterol is a risk factor for many conditions, including erectile dysfunction (ED).
Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which a person with a penis is unable to get or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. Although it is not usual to have this issue occasionally, people with ED experience it regularly.
There are several risk factors for developing ED, and high cholesterol can be one of them.
Keep reading to learn more about the link between high cholesterol and ED.
There are some links between ED and high cholesterol.
Generally speaking, ED is usually a symptom of another underlying health condition. In many cases, the underlying condition affects blood flow around the body, and this is what leads to ED. Examples of conditions that can lead to ED include:
High cholesterol is an associated risk factor for many of these conditions, and, therefore, it can also increase a person’s likelihood of having ED.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is present in the blood. It is essential for several bodily functions, such as building new tissue and producing bile and sex hormones.
Although cholesterol is essential, too much can cause a lot of health problems. There are two main types of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
LDL cholesterol is the type that causes problems. It can stick to the inside of arteries, leading to a buildup of atheroma, a fatty substance that narrows the arteries and makes it difficult for blood to pass through.
The accumulation of this substance is called atherosclerosis, and it can cause some severe complications, including an increased risk of ED.
Statins are the most common medication for treating high cholesterol in people over the age of 10 years. To lower cholesterol, doctors typically prescribe statins along with lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a healthful diet.
Statins slow down the production of cholesterol. They block HMG-CoA reductase, which is a protein that the body needs for cholesterol production in the liver. In response to the inhibition of this protein, the body creates more receptors that remove cholesterol from the blood.
Statins are effective in reducing high LDL cholesterol levels. Some people who are at risk of heart disease take statins regularly, which is relatively safe to do. However, they can cause some side effects that may include:
Many statin products are available, such as:
- atorvastatin (Lipitor)
- fluvastatin (Lescol)
- lovastatin (Mevacor)
- pravastatin (Pravachol)
- pitavastatin (Livalo)
Statins can help people with ED if the cause relates to high cholesterol. For example, someone with atherosclerosis may experience ED as a symptom of their condition. Treating atherosclerosis with statins may, therefore, lead to a decrease in ED symptoms.
Recent research suggests that statins may be able to treat ED more generally. A review in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that people who took statins were less likely to experience symptoms of ED than those who did not.
While these results are promising, the authors state that the statins were only between one-third and one-half as effective as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors. Doctors commonly use this class of drugs, which includes sildenafil (Viagra), for treating ED.
For this reason, it is unlikely that doctors will start to prescribe statins for treating ED any time soon. However, they will prescribe statins to treat high cholesterol in people who also have ED.
Some natural treatments and remedies might also improve the symptoms of ED. You can read about them here.
ED is generally the result of problems with blood flow, nerve supply, or hormone levels. Physical health conditions relating to high cholesterol, such as heart and blood vessel diseases, may be responsible for these issues.
Other physical risk factors for ED can include:
- injury to the penis or surrounding area
- alcohol use
- use of illicit drugs, such as cocaine
- chronic kidney disease
- multiple sclerosis
- cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy
Some medications can also cause ED as a side effect. Examples of these include:
- blood pressure drugs
- appetite suppressants
- ulcer medications
It is also possible that certain psychological factors — for example, low self-esteem or anxiety — could cause ED. You can read more about performance anxiety and ED here.
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get or maintain an erection.
High cholesterol is a risk factor for many conditions that can lead to ED, such as heart disease. People with high cholesterol are more likely to have ED because of this link.
Statins are a common treatment for lowering cholesterol levels and could be useful in treating ED.
There are many other possible causes of ED. These include other physical causes, such as injury and smoking.
Psychological problems, such as anxiety, can also cause ED.