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Many of us are aware of cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, and Cancer being the leading causes of death in the United States, but it might take you by surprise to learn that the leading cause of death amongst African Americans is cardiovascular disease. African American men are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than any other ethnic group. High blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes are all key factors in the development of cardiovascular disease.
African Americans are more likely to experience all three at alarming rates and earlier in life. Cardiovascular disease covers a range of conditions that affect the heart and in most cases; CVD is always preventable and even reversible, with dietary and lifestyle changes. Although the symptoms of heart disease vary by the type of condition that affects your heart; there’s one symptom in particular that men should pay very close attention to; erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is commonly defined as the inability to achieve or sustain an erection. 44% of African American men have erectile dysfunction which stems from 40% of them having high blood pressure. In 2011, a study at Harvard Medical School found that erectile dysfunction is an early sign of heart disease and other circulatory problems. A buildup of plaque in arteries supplying blood to the penis can prevent the increase in blood flow needed to start or sustain an erection.
Spending for the three most popular ED drugs (Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis) is over $1 billion worldwide every year. (Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2011) 1 in 4 men who seek ED treatment is younger than 40. (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2013)
There is an emerging awareness of Erectile Dysfunction as a barometer for Cardiovascular Disease. Erectile Dysfunction could soon become a tool for early detection of atherosclerosis. Starting at age 20, you may have a fasting lipoprotein profile taken every four to six years. This blood test measures your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol. After age 40, your health care provider will also want to use an equation to calculate your 10-year risk of experiencing cardiovascular disease or stroke. There are always exceptions to the rule. Many health professionals recommend African Americans start getting health screenings 10 years earlier, due to being such a high-risk group. If you are curious about your blood sugar, lipid profile, or any other health screenings bring any questions and concerns to the attention of your trusted medical professional. Be an unapologetic advocate for your health. Establish a relationship with a doctor that is invested in your health and longevity and will advocate for you as well. Losing any excess weight, maintaining a weight that doesn’t put stress on your body, eliminating fast food and foods with added salt, eliminating processed sugars, and avoiding consumption of refined fats are all helpful in preventing and possibly reversing heart disease and erectile dysfunction. Notice that there are no pharmaceutical drugs involved, there are no extreme medical interventions involved, there aren’t hundreds and thousands of dollars involved – it is simply getting back to the basics of eating and living a more simple and wholesome lifestyle.