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How does heart disease affect sexual function?

Jan L. Shifren, MD
Reproductive Endocrinology
Your heart is linked to your sexual organs, both physically and metaphorically. When you have chest pain or a heart attack, it's usually because fatty deposits have narrowed your arteries (a condition called atherosclerosis) and the heart tissue is not receiving enough blood. When atherosclerosis strikes the coronary arteries, it's a good bet that other vessels in your body have met the same fate -- including those that serve your genitals. Because the penis needs a rapid influx of blood to achieve an erection, it's easy to see why vascular disease is the leading cause of erectile dysfunction. And for women, atherosclerosis may also cause arousal difficulties by preventing sufficient amounts of blood from reaching sex organs. Engorgement of the blood vessels of the vagina is needed for adequate lubrication and arousal.

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