Diabetes Increases ED Risk for Men

The general risk for men with Type 2 diabetes to also experience erectile dysfunction has long been recognised. In fact, many doctors now advise that erectile dysfunction can be a warning of the onset of diabetes or pre-diabetes.
 
That’s because the metabolic syndrome which can lead to erectile dysfunction is also a common underlying cause of Type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms include:

  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Fluctuating blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • A condition called insulin resistance which is very similar to metabolic syndrome or Syndrome X.

Men with erectile dysfunction have high levels of metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.

Common Causes for ED and Diabetes

Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetics do produce insulin; just not enough, or else their bodies do not effectively use what is produced. This is known as Insulin Resistance.

As insulin is involved in the effective absorption of glucose, the result of insulin resistance is a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. This can cause:

  • Nerve damage in extremities, as well as eyes, kidneys, heart
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Reduction in the nitric oxide cycle essential for erections

All of these increase the risk of erectile dysfunction as well as Type 2 diabetes.

Despite Type 2 diabetes being more common than Type 1, its causes are much less well understood. General consensus is that the onset of Type 2 diabetes is more likely due to the cumulative effects of a constellation of risk factors rather than any one single trigger.
 
And while there is clearly a hereditary component, how exactly it might be inherited or what the underlying genetic factor could be is still unknown.

Metabolic Syndrome and ED

Metabolic syndrome is closely linked to being overweight and not getting enough exercise. It is a risk factor for insulin resistance as well as erectile dysfunction.

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors, according to the US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Although you can have one of them with the others, they do tend to occur together. If you have at least three metabolic risk factors you are likely to have metabolic syndrome – and also be at higher risk of erectile dysfunction.

  • A large waistline. Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
  • A high triglyceride level (or you're on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you're on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called "good" cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure (or you're on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque build-up.
  • High fasting blood sugar (or you're on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes and Testosterone

In the past there has been research linking Type 2 diabetes and hormone levels, but the studies have typically not received much recognition or attention.

This may be that because both low testosterone levels and diabetes are linked with ageing, and thus researchers assumed that the odds were good that older men would be likely to develop both purely due to chance.

More recent findings now though have shown a very clear and strong correlation between Type 2 diabetes and low testosterone in men in particular, which is known to be a common root cause of erectile dysfunction.

Low Testosterone Common in ED & Diabetes

One study examining over 100 men affected by Type 2 Diabetes, found that as well as having a higher incidence of ED, more than one third of the men had significantly low testosterone levels, as compared with averages for their age groups.

Despite this however these men did not present with the kind of Hypogonadism (low testosterone disorder) typically associated with aging. These results give strong evidence that their low testosterone was related to diabetes specifically, rather than just normal aging.

The above study’s discovery of low testosterone at last gives professionals a better understanding as to why Type 2 diabetics have a higher risk of ED compared with Type 1.

As a result, it may soon become common practice for men with Type 2 diabetes to also be screened for low testosterone levels.

However, the news isn’t all bad. There’s plenty of good, natural ways to improve low testosterone levels, and to make life style changes which will reduce insulin resistance and reverse erectile dysfunction.

Reducing ED and Diabetes Causes

While Type 2 diabetes has a strong genetic factor it is often triggered or exacerbated by lifestyle choices. Evidence shows that eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can dramatically reduce the risk of developing diabetes, and help better control the condition if present.

In fact, new research shows that moderate weight-loss can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 58%, and good levels of regular exercise can reduce it further.

Getting more physical activity, losing weight and quitting smoking help reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and reverse erectile dysfunction. 

One study showed increasing aerobic fitness and increasing fibre helped reduce insulin resistance (and the risk to men of developing both diabetes and erectile dysfunction).