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Impotence: a Sign of Increased Heart Attack Risk

The most common cause of a man being unable to achieve and maintain an erection is damage to blood vessels throughout his body. Men who lose their ability to achieve and maintain an erection are at increased risk for heart attacks. The more difficult it is for a man to achieve an erection, the more likely he is to suffer, and die from, a heart attack (PLOS Medicine, January 29, 2013;10(1). Erectile dysfunction gives a two to three year early warning of a heart attack (British Medical Journal, October 22, 2008). Obesity is associated with reduced blood flow to the penis, impotence and increased risk for heart attacks (European Society of Endocrinology. 2008).

HOW INCREASED BLOOD FLOW CAUSES AN ERECTION: Inside the penis are two balloons called the corpora cavernosa. When a man is excited, there is an eight-fold increase in blood flow to the penis and the corpora cavernosa fill with blood. This swelling of the corpora cavernosa pushes against the veins carrying blood from the penis and prevents blood from flowing out of the corpora cavernosa. The pressure becomes very high in the balloons and the penis becomes erect.

HOW BLOOD VESSEL DISEASE CAUSES IMPOTENCE: Men who are at increased risk for heart attacks usually have plaques form in the arteries leading to their hearts. They also have plaques that reduce blood flow to the penis. This reduced pressure is inadequate to form an erection which is usually a sign that plaques are also forming in the arteries leading to their hearts.

IF YOU SUFFER FROM IMPOTENCE: Check with your doctor. You need tests for the male hormone, testosterone and the brain hormone, prolactin. The odds are that both will be normal. Then you need an evaluation for heart attack risk.

The following factors put you at increased risk for a heart attack:
• Blood pressure higher than 120/80
• LDL (bad) cholesterol higher than 100
• HDL (good) cholesterol lower than 40
• HBA1C (a test for diabetes) higher than 6
• CRP (a test for inflammation) higher than 1
• Abdominal obesity
• Triglycerides (blood fats) higher than 150
• Lp(a), a test for a clotting disease, higher than 125
• Homocysteine higher than 10
• Having small particle-size cholesterol.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES: Most men can markedly reduce their chances of suffering a heart attack and regain their potency just by making the following lifestyle changes: 1) Avoid overweight. 2) Do not take sugared drinks in any form, including fruit juices, except during prolonged intense exercise. 3) Avoid foods with added sugar. 4) Avoid fried foods. 5) Eat large amounts of fruits & vegetables. 6) Do not eat red meat (blocks insulin receptors). 7) Exercise. 8) Grow muscles. 9) Reduce body fat. 10) Keep blood levels of hydroxy-vitamin D > 75 nmol/L.

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Vegetarians Have Reduced Heart Attack Risk

Vegetarians are 32 percent less likely than meat eaters to suffer from heart attacks, and are less likely to die from them (Am J Clin Nutr, January 30, 2013). Vegetarians also have significantly lower blood pressures and blood cholesterol levels, body weight and diabetes. This new study adds to the body of research data showing that eating meat is associated with increased risk for premature death, heart attacks, strokes, certain cancers and diabetes.

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Risk Factors for Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer

The largest study ever on young-onset colorectal cancer shows that the following are associated with increase risk for colon cancer:

• Family history of colorectal cancer,
• taking more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and
• eating processed meat.

Eating vegetables, fruit, and fish is associated with decreased colon cancer risk (Cancer Causes Control, Decemeber 2012).

An earlier study showed that the following are associated with increased colon and rectal cancer risk: family history of colon cancer, having diabetes or gallstones, and eating the following foods: red meat, canned meat, cheese, butter and refined carbohydrates such as pastries or pastas (Br J Cancer, 1997;75(9):1381-4). This study showed that reduced risk of colon cancer is associated with eating poultry, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and lots of fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C or beta-carotene.

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This week's medical history:
Sudden Graying of the Hair

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries

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Recipe of the Week:

Baked Sweet Potatoes and Onions

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book
- it's FREE

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February 3rd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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