Is There a Link Between High Cholesterol and Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common condition. It’s estimated to affect about 30 million men in the United States. Men with ED have a hard time getting and keeping an erection. Occasionally being unable to get or maintain an erection happens to most men. ED is diagnosed, however, when a man consistently has this difficulty.

ED is caused by a number of different factors, including poor heart health. High levels of cholesterol can affect your heart health. So, can treating high cholesterol also help treat ED? Research shows that it may have a slight effect.

Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol levels. In a recent study on rats, researchers noted an improvement in erectile function following treatment for high cholesterol using the medication atorvastatin (Lipitor).

Lipid levels remained unchanged, however, so they concluded that the improvement was due to an improvement in the endothelium as opposed to a decrease in cholesterol levels. The endothelium is an interior surface in blood vessels.

An earlier study from 2014 also found evidence that statins may improve ED over time.

On the other hand, a 2009 study found evidence to suggest that lipid-lowering medications may cause or aggravate ED. In more than half of the identified cases, men recovered from ED after they stopped taking statins.

A 2015 cohort analysis didn’t find an association between statins and an increased risk of ED or sexual dysfunction. ED is also not listed as a common side effect of statins.