Erectile dysfunction (ED) consists of the impossibility of achieving an erection sufficient for penetration, or if it is achieved, it is not maintained with sufficient rigidity to achieve satisfactory sexual intercourse.
Usually, this disorder has a constant and progressive development, with a minimum duration of about 3 months. It affects up to 50% of patients between 40 and 70 years old (variable data according to different studies). Its frequency clearly increases with age, but there are cases and types that can be observed in younger people.
There are a series of risk factors for this pathology. Some of them are inherent to the patient, that is, they cannot be modified: advanced age, neurological diseases, alterations in the anatomy of the penis. Others, however, are modifiable, and therefore it is possible to act on them to prevent or delay the occurrence of ED: obesity, diabetes mellitus, high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use, metabolic syndrome.
These risk factors also predispose to the development of cardiovascular diseases related to generalised vascular disease (heart attack, stroke, large-vessel disease).
This relationship is due to the fact that, in the early stages of atherosclerosis, there is a loss of nitric oxide in the arteries of the whole body. Nitric oxide is necessary to obtain an erection. Research has been carried out in this field, and the results indicate that the appearance of erectile dysfunction can precede the appearance of cardiovascular events by an average of 2-3 years.