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Varied health issues could signal heart disease

What do high levels of calcium in the arteries, low testosterone levels, stress and erectile dysfunction have in common? They are all early indicators of heart disease in men.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men in the U.S., killing 357,761 in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s one in every four deaths.

According to medical experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine, on average, men develop heart disease 10 years earlier than women. And one early warning sign that is often missed is erectile dysfunction.

“It’s the canary in the coal mine,” says a Johns Hopkins expert. “Sexual problems often foretell heart problems.”

Early warning signs are a plus because they can provide you and your health care provider with a path to preventive care.

Calcium deposits in the arteries to the heart indicate high cardiovascular disease risk. Low testosterone levels can be considered a cardiovascular and metabolic risk factor. Stress, anger and anxiety increase levels of blood pressure, can lead to stroke, and can damage arteries over time. Erectile problems almost always indicate a physical problem and ED can be a barometer for overall cardiovascular health.

Since 1995, the National Cancer Institute has followed the health of nearly 400,000 men and women, and from the beginning has assessed each participant for their calcium supplement intake. Today, there is indication that a link may exist between calcium supplements and heart disease in men. Ask your health care provider to run a calcium blood test as part of your routine metabolic panel.

Low testosterone levels have been linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Coupled with high blood sugar levels, unhealthy cholesterol levels, too much weight in the midsection and diabetes can be leading risk factors for heart disease. Check in with your urologist to get a good reading on your testosterone levels.

According to the University of California, San Francisco, the most common and simplest test for evaluating and diagnosing erectile dysfunction is the combined intracavernous injection and stimulation test. Other noninvasive tests may also be recommended by a urologist and include a color doppler ultrasound and pharmacologic cavernosometry and cavernosography. If you haven’t seen a urologist, ask your primary care physician for a referral.

Physical symptoms of stress in men may include chest pain, pounding heart, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches, such as back and neck pain, headaches, dizziness, clenched jaws and teeth grinding, tightness, dryness, or a feeling of a having lump in your throat, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea, increased perspiration, stomach cramps, weight gain or loss, and skin problems.

Psychological stress symptoms in men may include sadness, depression, crying, withdrawal or isolation, insomnia, mood swings, increased or diminished sex drive, worry, irritability, increased smoking or use of alcohol or drugs, changes in close relationships, and feeling restless, anxious or angry.

Stress management is essential to your overall well-being and your health care provider can make appropriate referrals for you.

As part of June’s observance of Men’s Health Awareness Month, schedule an appointment with your primary care health care provider. Take the next step to improve your preventive health path.

For more reading:, visit https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/men.htm; https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases; https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/high-calcium-intake-from-supplements-linked-to-heart-disease-in-men-201302065861; https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/study-links-too-much-calcium-to-heart-disease-20100812204 and https://dietandhealth.cancer.gov.

To Your Health is provided by the staff of Boulder City Hospital. For more information, call 702-293-4111, ext. 576, or visit bchcares.org.

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