Heart attacks happen when the flow of blood and oxygen that supplies the vital organ is blocked. One of the primary causes is atherosclerosis, a potentially serious condition whereby arteries become clogged with fatty substances called plaques, or atheroma. These plaques cause the arteries to harden and narrow, restricting the blood flow and oxygen supply to vital organs, such as the heart.
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One of the first warning signs of atherosclerosis, which in turn signals you are at risk of a heart attack, is erectile dysfunction.
According to the NHS, erectile dysfunction (ED), sometimes known as impotence, is the inability to get and maintain an erection that is sufficient for satisfactory sexual intercourse.
Why is erectile dysfunction a warning sign of a heart attack?
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains: “During an erection, the arteries carrying blood to the penis dilate and more blood flows into the penis, causing it to swell.
“If arteries in the body are affected by atherosclerosis, this causes a reduction in the blood flow, which can mean problems getting or maintaining an erection.”
As the BHF explains, because the arteries in the penis are so narrow, erectile problems can be one of the first warning signs.
According to the NHS, erectile dysfunction can also be attributed to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, other precursors to having a heart attack.
How to treat it
According to the health body, healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes help erectile dysfunction.
A healthy lifestyle will also stave off the risk of having a heart attack.
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One of the most important measures is to eat a heart-healthy diet.
“Eating an unhealthy diet that is high in fat will make hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) worse and increase your risk of a heart attack,” warns the NHS.
As the health site points out, continuing to eat high-fat foods will cause more fatty plaques to build up in your arteries.
This is because fatty foods contain an unhealthy type of cholesterol called LDL cholesterol.
Foods high in saturated fat include:
- Fried foods
- Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
- Ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
- Hard cheese
- Cakes and biscuits
- Foods that contain coconut or palm oil
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It is worth nothing that replacing saturated fat with refined carbohydrates, like sugary foods and drinks, won’t improve your health, according to the BHF.
“Replacing it with unsaturated fats such as oily fish, nuts, or vegetable oils like rapeseed or sunflower oil, does seem to reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke,” explains the health body.
It adds: “Remember, though, all types of fat are high in calories, so eating too much can lead to weight gain.”
To combat weight gain, you should engage in regular exercise.
As the NHS points out, regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will help to lower your blood pressure.
It is also important to curb your alcohol intake.
Research has found people who have had a heart attack and continue to binge drink are twice as likely to die from a serious health condition, such as another heart attack or stroke, compared with people who moderate their drinking after having a heart attack.
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