By Lauren Williams, BlackVoices.com
Commercials for drugs like Cialis and Viagra are mainstays on television these days, but the condition they treat -- erectile dysfunction -- is hardly something that comes up in casual conversation. In fact, despite the mainstream popularity of the medications, erectile dysfunction, which is characterized by an inability to maintain an erection long enough to have sex, still causes great embarrassment and shame for men who suffer from it.
Things are no different in the black community, even though research has suggested that black men are up to 20 times more likely to have ED than whites. There might be less of a stigma surrounding the condition if more men knew what caused it, and, most importantly, what other health issues it can predict, Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh, urologist and author of 'Sensational Sex In Seven Easy Steps,' told Black Voices.
Studies have conclusively shown that ED is a very strong predictor of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, two diseases that disproportionately affect the black community.
"If we raise the awareness that ED is an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease," Shabsigh said, "It would help remove the stigma and help improve men's health."
There are some psychological causes of ED, like depression, anxiety, and relationship stress, but those sometimes show up in conjunction with other physical causes, like obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol abuse, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, Shabsigh said. Making lifestyle changes -- exercising, eating right, laying off cigarettes and alcohol -- will improve a patient's ED and potentially save him from a future problem with heart disease. Instead of an embarrassing sexual issue, ED should be seen as a first sign that a man needs to change his bad habits.
This knowledge is especially important in the black community, where heart disease is the No. 1 killer and the stigma of ED might prevent a man from seeking medical attention.
"The African-American community is really in major need in raising awareness because African-Americans have high instances of cardiovascular disease and that high instance is also related to ED, therefore ED becoming an early warning sign becomes very vital," Shabsigh said.
"We have to keep in mind that cardiovascular disease progresses silently over the years. The day you are wheeled to the ER with a heart attack or stroke, the disease started happening 20 years ago due to the process of someone overeating, smoking, not exercising and smoking -- a silent process."
African-American women, often the "health czars" in the black family, are vital in spreading the word and encouraging their husbands and boyfriends to seek treatment for ED. Treatment involves prescribing pills like Cialis, said Shabsigh, but medicine should be administered in conjuction with a total health makeover.
"If you are sexy you are healthy," he said. "And if you are healthy you are sexy."