Sexual Health Q&A
Is there a potential connection between erectile dysfunction (ED) and dementia?
Yes, research indicates that such a link is likely.
While the link between erectile dysfunction (ED) and dementia has not been widely studied, research has suggested that the two conditions might be linked.
For example, in 2015 researchers from Taiwan reported that men with ED were 1.68 times more likely to develop dementia when compared to men without ED. They also found that men who were older, and those with diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, depression, anxiety, or a history of stroke were at higher risk.
Their findings were based on seven years’ worth of data comparing 4,153 men with ED and 20,765 men without ED. The two groups were similar in age and health status.
There are several reasons that might explain this connection:
• Low testosterone. Men with ED often have low levels of testosterone, a hormone that is thought to protect the brain from dementia. Low testosterone has also been linked to blood vessel problems, heart disease, and stroke, which are all risk factors for dementia.
• Insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body process sugar (glucose). It also helps maintain sugar levels in the blood so that they don’t get too high or too low. Insulin resistance occurs when cells do not respond properly to the insulin produced. The condition has been associated with both ED and dementia.
• Endothelial dysfunction. The endothelium is tissue that lines blood vessels. If the tissue becomes damaged, it can interfere with blood flow to certain parts of the body, including the penis and the brain.
• Shared risk factors. ED and dementia have many risk factors in common, including older age, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Men who are experiencing erection problems should talk to their doctor, as many different ED treatments are available. However, it’s just as important to see a doctor if one notices changes in memory or cognition.
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