Erectile Dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence, involves not being able to achieve or maintain enough of an erection to have sex. This is more than just a quality of life issue, though. To sustain an erection, the penis needs to get good blood flow. Erectile dysfunction, therefore, “can be the first sign of significant cardiac or vascular disease,” says Dr. Carson. According to Dr. Carson, studies have shown that the majority of men seen in the emergency room for a cardiac event—such as heart attack or stroke—suffered from erectile dysfunction three to five years earlier.

Treatment for erectile dysfunction involves first determining the underlying cause. This includes dealing with obesity, smoking, cholesterol, and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.