Over three-quarters of cases of erectile dysfunction are caused by physiological problems, which are most often manifested in an insufficient flow of blood to the penis.
However, health professionals increasingly acknowledge that mental health plays a significant role in the outlook for an individual’s overall health and appears to be very closely linked to heart health in particular.
Clinical psychologist Barry Jacobs, director of behavioral sciences at the Crozer-Keystone Family Medicine Residency Program in Springfield, Pennsylvania, believes “the head-heart connection should be on everyone’s radar.” Mental issues, he points out, can cause biochemical changes that greatly increase the risk of other health problems, especially heart problems, according to an article posted at the website of the American Heart Association.
It’s a Matter of Blood Supply
And heart problems usually stem from changes in the body that impair the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, which mirrors the primary cause of erectile dysfunction — a compromised supply of blood to the penis. It is for this reason that many medical professionals emphasize that what’s good for the penis is good for the heart, and vice-versa.
For those on their toes and alert to bothersome changes in their overall health, erection problems often serve as a warning of vascular problems that could eventually lead to even more serious health problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Because the arteries that supply the male genitals are much smaller than those that carry blood to the brain and heart, signs of impaired vascular function usually show up in the penis well before they do elsewhere in the body.
Depression, one of the most widely diagnosed mental health problems, is three times as prevalent in patients with cardiovascular disease as it is in the general population, according to a November 2016 report in “The American Journal of Medicine.” That report notes that the AHA has recommended that “depression be recognized as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, similar to hyperlipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, and smoking.” Not surprisingly, those same health problems increase a man’s risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
Anxiety Disorder Another Culprit
Anxiety disorder, yet another widely diagnosed mental health problem, has also been implicated as increasing the risk of heart disease. Psychiatrist Christopher Celano, M.D., of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital is quick to point out that not all anxiety is a bad thing. “Small amounts of anxiety and stress can push people to be more productive,” he told the Harvard Heart Letter. The problem happens when anxiety becomes so overwhelming that you’re unable to function normally.”
Take Mental Health Seriously
In summary, when it comes to male sexual function, mental health issues can lead to erection problems directly or instead pave the road toward physical illness that causes male impotence. The former occurs when a man is so deeply depressed or beset by anxiety that he can no longer get or keep an erection suitable for intercourse. In the latter instance, the mental issues lead over time to physiological problems that ultimately affect erectile function. If you feel that depression or other mental health problems are in any way interfering with your day-to-day life, it’s important that you seek medical attention. Your primary doctor can refer you to a colleague for psychological counseling if necessary.
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