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Can High Cholesterol Cause ED: What Is the Connection?

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High cholesterol is one of the most common health conditions for both men and women. And, at this point, most people are aware of the negative effects it can have on your cardiovascular health and the risk for issues like strokes and heart attacks.

But, what might surprise some people is the connection between your cholesterol levels being too high and the risk for erectile dysfunction symptoms in men.

Below, we will cover the basics of high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction including, why cholesterol levels have an effect on ED, what effect might common cholesterol medications have, if improving your cholesterol levels may lead to benefits in the bedroom, and your treatment options for erectile dysfunction when you also have high cholesterol.

How does high cholesterol have an effect on erectile function?

Cholesterol is a normal product of all human bodies, and it is a necessary component to help maintain the integrity of your cell membranes, as well as the production of hormones, bile acids for digestion, and even vitamin D synthesis. Clearly, you don’t want to abolish all cholesterol. But, you want to keep your levels in check to avoid the negative consequences of having too much around.

The connection between your erection and cholesterol has to do with the sticky nature of this lipid compound. Basically, when there is too much LDL cholesterol floating around in your bloodstream, it can start accumulating inside the walls of your vessels, eventually forming a plaque. These cholesterol buildups physically narrow the lumen of your arteries and impede blood flow with time. And, when it comes to blood flow, the smaller the vessels are to begin with, the sooner they may start feeling the effects of this narrower space.

The penis contains many of these smaller blood vessels to help boost blood flow during arousal and develop the erection, so, when the vessels aren’t as clear as they used to be -- you may start noticing the effects during intimacy pretty early on. Often, doctors like to keep an eye on issues like ED, as issues involving smaller vessels may function as a warning sign for potentially larger cardiovascular blockages down the road. 

Another potential role that high cholesterol levels may play in ED, is that people with increased LDL levels may have impaired relaxation of their vascular beds having to do with reduced nitric oxide signaling (in addition to the narrowed vessels). This could lead to even worse difficulties when it comes to blood flow to the tissues.

What effects do statins have on ED?

Statins are the most popular class of drugs to use for people experiencing high cholesterol levels. Statin medications function by slowing down the production of LDL cholesterol in the liver (where is it made by your body). You will likely still be consuming some cholesterol in your diet (unless you are vegan), but your natural production will decline, helping to lower your levels overall.

Some studies have shown that erectile function may improve in men who use statins as compared to controls who did not use statins. However, this improvement is noted as being only about ⅓ to ½ as strong as improvements seen when using ED medications. So, while you would not use statins over an ED medication for men who do not have high cholesterol, this study suggests that it may be a good option for those with both ED and high LDL cholesterol to try and help both conditions with just 1 medication. 

However, other studies have reported the opposite effect when it comes to statins and ED, claiming that statin use may induce or worsen erectile dysfunction. 

So, we may need some more data on this topic before concluding what is really happening here. But, what we do know is that better cardiovascular health can help improve erectile function, and normal cholesterol levels can help improve your cardiovascular health. Always be sure to use your cholesterol-lowering medications as prescribed by your doctor and aim for healthy cholesterol levels for the best results in the bedroom.

Can improving your cholesterol levels reduce your erectile dysfunction symptoms?

There are multiple different health factors that can lead to worsened erectile function. Some of which may be high blood pressure, being overweight, smoking, having diabetes, and high cholesterol levels, just to name a few.

If your ED symptoms are mainly driven by high cholesterol levels (and you have all other potential risk factors in check), it is possible that just reducing your LDL cholesterol may lead to noticeable improvements in your ED symptoms. However, if there are a few different things going on in your body driving your erectile dysfunction, just improving your cholesterol levels may not be enough to see a noticeable difference in your erection.

ED treatments for patients with high cholesterol

In addition to using cholesterol-lowering medications and making diet and lifestyle adjustments as suggested by your doctor, you may be able to also use an additional ED medication to help during intimacy.

For most men, ED medications called PDE-5 inhibitors may help you achieve and maintain an erection for a time span of hours to days, depending on the exact medication and strength chosen. Medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and avanafil (Stendra) are in this class. 

These drugs are considered safe and effective for most users that are otherwise healthy, although if you have severe cardiac issues, certain urinary tract concerns, or you are taking nitrate medications, PDE-5 inhibitors are likely inappropriate for you. Your doctor will be able to let you know if using PDE-5 inhibitors is a good fit for you.

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If you have any questions during your therapy, our team and doctors are available for free, unlimited follow-ups.

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