Your ethnicity and genetic make-up can mean that you’re more likely to experience certain conditions than others.
There isn’t reliable evidence that certain ethnicities are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED). But there is reliable evidence that conditions which could cause or contribute to ED are more common in certain ethnic groups.
This is one of the reasons we consider your ethnic background when making a diagnosis of ED and recommending suitable treatment.
Ethnic background, common conditions and ED risk factors
Heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are very common in the UK, often causing secondary problems. In many cases, these conditions can be prevented.
If you are South Asian, you may be at higher risk of developing heart disease and if you’re African Caribbean, high blood pressure is more likely to affect you. Both ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than the rest of the UK’s population.
Research has been done to understand which primary conditions may lead to developing secondary problems. In these cases, we call the primary condition a ‘risk factor’.
For example, type 2 diabetes is a known risk factor for eye, kidney and nerve damage. It’s also been found that men living with type 2 diabetes are significantly more like to experience ED. In fact, heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are all risk factors for ED.
To achieve and maintain an erection requires a man to have healthy blood vessels, to carry more blood to the penis, and healthy nerves to carry the information to the muscles involved. If you are living with a condition that affects your heart, blood vessels, blood pressure or nerve endings, you are much more likely to experience ED.
Prevention, intervention and treatment for ED
It’s important to note that ‘increased likelihood’ is not the same as ‘certainty’ – it is not a certainty that a South Asian man will develop heart disease or ED, but it is more likely.
If you’re in a high-risk ethnic group, what can you do? And does being in a high-risk group affect how doctors treat ED?
ED prevention and intervention
ED can have both psychological and physical causes. You can read more about the psychological causes and effective treatments here.
If we consider the physical causes, reducing your risk level is one of the most effective things you can do.
When we see patients with elevated blood pressure, or who appear to be at risk of developing heart disease or type 2 diabetes, lifestyle change is often the first line of treatment. These are often small changes to your routine:
– Regular exercise – strengthens your heart
- Do 30 minutes of exercise per day that raises your heart rate
- Try a brisk walk or swimming
- Build up your exercise slowly if you’re not very active
– Eating a balanced diet – supports healthy, functioning systems
- Eat at least five portions of whole fruit and vegetables each day
- Moderate fatty food consumption, such as butter, cheese and oil
- Replace some red meat with lean protein like poultry, fish or pulses and beans
– Reduce sugar and salt intake – keeps your blood sugar and blood pressure steady
- Avoid very salty foods, such as processed meat, ready meals and snacks
- Replace sugary biscuits, cake and soft drinks with fruit, low-sugar alternatives and water
- Read nutrition labels to understand portion sizes and salt/sugar content
– Drink alcohol in moderation – looks after your heart, blood and weight
- Keep to the guidelines of 14 units per week (6 pints of beer or 6 glasses of wine)
- Spread your drinks throughout the week to avoid bingeing
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with water to stay hydrated
Getting the right ED treatment for you
Information about your ethnicity and pre-existing conditions can be useful for doctors to understand the causes of your ED and recommend the right treatment plan. We’ll always make sure that any medicines you’re taking for other conditions are compatible with the ED treatment we prescribe.
Patients living with type 2 diabetes are often prescribed a treatment called Vardenafil (Levitra) as this can be taken with food.
Angina is treated with nitrates, which react badly with most ED treatments, so in this case we’d look for other options such as lifestyle changes.
It’s important to state, however, that your ethnicity alone doesn’t affect how doctors – or our clinicians – treat you. We treat men from all backgrounds and at various ages who experience ED, for a range of reasons. Remember, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk factors, particularly if you’re in a high-risk ethnic group.
If you are experiencing trouble maintaining an erection, our online ED consultation questionnaire is confidential, thorough, and can help you find the right treatment plan.