Q: My husband occasionally experiences erectile dysfunction (ED). Could this be a sign of a bigger health problem?
A: Yes. In fact, up to 90 percent of ED cases can be attributed to a physical problem (the other 10 to 20 percent of cases are linked to psychological issues). Often the condition is an indicator of early stage cardiovascular disease. Clogged arteries, for instance, can slow the flow of blood to the penis. And diabetes, over time, can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control erection. (The average man with diabetes will develop ED 10 to 15 years earlier than a man who doesn't have diabetes.) Impotence may also be the result of obesity. Fat cells in the belly help convert testosterone into estrogen, and low testosterone levels can decrease a man's libido or interfere with his ability to achieve or maintain an erection. Your husband should talk to his doctor, who can help him determine the cause behind his ED and come up with solutions.