Between 18 and 30 million men in the United States have erectile dysfunction. It’s certainly a topic everyone’s familiar with – the image of a little blue pill or two outdoor bathtubs is practically iconic.
But most people don’t know that ED isn’t usually caused by stress, alcohol, or performance anxiety, it’s a result of blocked arteries. The cholesterol and saturated fat in animal products can lead to vascular problems, which in turn impede blood flow. Gorge on chicken wings and steak, and the only thing that will grow is your waistline.
Over a six-year span, the U.S. government spent $172 million on penis pumps – expensive contraptions that try to draw blood flow through narrowed arteries.
There’s a much less expensive solution: A low-fat, plant-based diet will reverse artery blockage, letting blood flow to where you need it. In fact, while processed meat products cause low-quality sperm, carrots and other vegetables can actually boost virility.
One surprising early sign of life-threatening heart problems is erectile dysfunction. A new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that screening men with ED for heart disease could help prevent a million heart attacks or strokes over the next 20 years and save billions of dollars.
But why let it escalate that far? Vegetables – not Viagra are the best way to not only prevent ED, but the heart disease it’s linked to.
Of course the first thing that men who are already turning to Viagra, Cialis, and other ED drugs should do is schedule an appointment with their physician.
Approximately 44 percent of men with heart disease risk factors, such as ED are unaware of their risk, according to the study. But if men with ED were screened for heart disease, 5.8 million cases would be identified over 20 years.
Now we know just how costly erectile dysfunction is. The study authors say that even a 20 percent decrease in heart attacks or strokes as a result of screening and treatment could help avoid 1.1 million heart attacks and strokes, saving $21.3 billion over 20 years… and more than 1 million cases of ED would also be treated, saving $9.7 billion. That’s a combined savings of $28.5 billion.
ED is a canary in a coal mine, according to Stephen Kopecky, M.D., who will discuss how ED is an early indicator of heart disease at this summer’s International Conference on Nutrition in Medicine: Cardiovascular Disease. Why? Because, as this new study shows, the blocked arteries that cause ED can eventually stop blood flow to the heart and brain.
About 8.8 million men have heart disease and 5 million of those have a history of heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.
Heart disease killed more than 200,000 men in 2009 and 68,814 died from heart attack. Three million men today are stroke survivors and in 2009 stroke caused the death of more than 50,000 men, says the American Stroke Association.
But arteries can literally open up again by simply adopting a low-fat, plant-based diet. A study in JAMA found that found that normal sexual function returned in almost one-third of the men who ate less saturated fat and cholesterol (both of which are abundant in animal products) and more fiber (only found in plant foods).
The best way to keep the blood pumping is a plant-based diet.
Video: Erectile Dysfunction: It’s Not You, It’s Meat!
Neal Barnard, M.D. is a clinical researcher, author, health advocate and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC