Increased cholesterol and erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which a person is unable to obtain or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. There are several risk factors for developing erectile dysfunction and high cholesterol may be one of them.
While cholesterol itself is a natural part of our body and is important for building new tissues and producing sex hormones, too much of it can be harmful, especially if it is in the form of low-density lipoprotein, or LDL.
Cholesterol is an organic molecule produced in the liver and found in some foods. It is a waxy fat-like substance and, contrary to popular belief, is not inherently unhealthy. There are two types of cholesterol. The first, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), is commonly known as "good" cholesterol because it transports cholesterol from other parts of the body to the liver.
Low-density lipoproteins (LDL), on the other hand, are known as "bad" cholesterol because, in high enough amounts, they cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries. Too much LDL buildup leads to atherosclerosis, which makes it difficult for blood to pass through the arteries. This increases the risk of serious heart-related emergencies, such as heart attack and stroke, and is also responsible for increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction.
When your LDL levels are too high, the excess cholesterol in your body creates plaque that sticks to your arteries and narrows them, which damages and blocks blood flow. This is dangerous for the heart, but it can also make it more difficult to achieve an erection because it reduces the amount of blood traveling to the genital region and penis, leading to erectile dysfunction. In addition, studies suggest that high cholesterol levels in the body also impair the body's ability to produce a chemical called nitric oxide, which is crucial for the muscles of the penis to relax and allow an erection.
At the same time, high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, and is often associated with obesity, smoking and poor diet. As you might expect, all of these can also result in problems with erectile dysfunction.
Scientific studies also suggest that high cholesterol may contribute to erectile dysfunction in a fourth way. Because high LDL levels make it difficult for blood to travel throughout the body, the testes may also receive inadequate blood flow to produce healthy amounts of testosterone. Testosterone is important for regulating libido in men, which means that less of it could make erections more difficult. That said, it is important to remember that testosterone deficiency is one of the causes of erectile dysfunction in some patients.