Science is clear that high blood pressure and/or cholesterol are risk factors for ED, but they’re not the only ones.
Researchers have just published a study in the Arab Journal of Urology showing that atrial fibrillation is another cardiovascular condition that puts men at risk of ED too.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. According to the American Heart Association, instead of beating regularly to send blood to your lower heart chambers, your upper heart chambers quiver or stutter instead, pushing the blood through to the lower chambers with irregular stops and starts.
Because your blood isn’t pumped as efficiently as it should be, this puts you at much greater risk of blood clots, strokes, and even heart failure.
It’s a serious condition all on its own, but most people aren’t aware of it. So, perhaps if men knew that it caused erectile dysfunction too, they might pay it more attention, and that might help to save them from more serious health problems.
The authors of the new study looked at previously conducted studies on the relationship between atrial fibrillation and ED. They only included studies with the strongest scientific results, which whittled the field down to just five. The subjects in these studies totaled 4,096 men with atrial fibrillation and 25,733 without it.
Unsurprisingly the research concluded that conditions present alongside atrial fibrillation cause erectile dysfunction, so we’re talking about things like smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of physical activity, and sleep apnea.
When these were left out (to test what effects atrial fibrillation on its own had on erectile dysfunction) men with atrial fibrillation were still 61 percent more likely to have ED than the men with regular heartbeats were.
The authors could not explain the mechanisms behind this relationship, but they did use previously published studies to speculate about it.
Erectile dysfunction occurs when reservoirs within the penis don’t receive enough blood to sustain enough hardness for sexual intercourse. This usually happens when your blood vessels are damaged, possibly by inflammation, possibly by oxidative stress, possibly by hormonal disturbances, or possibly by a range of other factors and their interactions with each other.
One chemical necessary for an erection is nitric oxide, which one study suggested was in short supply in atrial fibrillation patients. Could there be a link there? It certainly looks that way.
Another study suggested that atrial fibrillation patients had far higher levels of inflammation in their bodies than people with regular heartbeats, something that can damage penile arteries.
And beta-blockers, the most commonly prescribed drug for atrial fibrillation patients have also been found to cause ED.