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Erectile Dysfunction (ED) becomes more common as men age but it is not necessarily a normal part of ageing. In the UK, 20 men out of every 100 will experience erectile dysfunction problems of some sort during their lives.
In many cases the problem goes away with little or no treatment. If ED is an ongoing problem, you need to seek medical advice – it could be an underlying cause of heart disease, early onset diabetes, hormonal imbalance or side effects to medication.
Dr Ronald Tamler (2010) explained that erectile dysfunction in young men “can be the earliest warning sign for blood-vessel changes throughout the entire body and for future heart disease. Men wheeled into the ER with their first heart attack will report onset of erectile dysfunction years earlier.”
New research at Northwestern University in Chicago (2017) has found that the more risk factors a man has to heart disease, the more likely it is he will develop erectile dysfunction. Following men in their 60’s for a decade the lead study author Abbi Lane-Cordova, a preventive medicine researcher says,
“This study showed that men who were less likely to have risk factors for heart disease and had healthier behaviors (non-smoking, physically active, healthier diet) were also less likely to have erectile dysfunction later in life,” .
Men can prevent developing ED by following a healthy lifestyle and limit their risk factors.
Instead of waiting for ED to affect you, there are simple changes you can make to your life style to prevent ED which will benefit not only your sexual health but your general health too.
Eating healthily is important to all of us, not just men. Anything that is bad for your heart is bad for your penis, says Dr Andrew McCullough, associate professor of urology at New York University Langone Medical Centre.
Poor dietary habits which can cause heart attacks due to restricted blood flow in the coronary arteries can also impede the blood flow to and within the penis, preventing it from becoming erect. Studies have found that ED is relatively uncommon in men who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olives and wine, particularly red (K. Esposito et al, 2006). This type of diet is also beneficial for the heart too.
Obesity is on the increase across the world with the US topping the scales, closely followed by Mexico, South Africa and worryingly, the UK, where 64% of adults are classed as being overweight or obese (2013). Being overweight can cause many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory conditions, joint and bone diseases. Diabetes can cause nerve damage throughout the body leading to diabetic neuropathy. If the nerves in the penis are affected, ED may occur. Having a healthy heart plays a huge part in penis health.
Being over weight may make a man either feel unattractive or his partner may find him unattractive and not wish to have sex, which can impact upon his sexual function. From the age of 30 onwards, men begin to age and so does their penis. The head of the penis (glans) gradually loses its purple colour as a result of reduced blood flow and there is a slow loss of pubic hair. As fat accumulates in the lower abdomen, the apparent size of the penis changes according to Dr Ira Shalip, clinical professor of urology at the University of California. A large pre pubic fat pad can make the penile shaft look shorter; in effect, burying the penis.
Many urologists motivate their patients to lose weight by telling them that they will gain at least an inch in size by simply losing weight. In addition to this shrinkage, which is reversible, the girth of the penis shrinks too. The reason for this is due to the same fatty deposits which stick to the lining of the arteries around the heart also adhering to the blood vessels in the penis, reducing the blood flow.
Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure. Eat a diet that helps to lower cholesterol which, in turn, will help with weight loss. Regular blood pressure checks with your GP will enable you to keep it under control. Drugs used to control high blood pressure (hypertension) are often blamed for causing ED, but many doctors believe that the reason for ED is actually caused by the arterial damage resulting from hypertension rather than side effects of the drugs.
There is little evidence to show that mild or even moderate alcohol consumption contributes toward ED according to Dr Sharlip, but chronic heavy drinkers can develop liver damage, nerve damage and other conditions which affect testosterone levels and can impact upon erectile function.
As we all know, smoking causes many diseases and ED is no exception. Nicotine causes blood vessels to contract, reducing the blood flow to the penis.
Exercising regularly will not only make you feel better but can also help with weight loss, reduce high blood pressure, stress and anxiety, improving overall health and well-being. Any form of anaerobic exercise that increases your heart rate is beneficial, including cycling, running, brisk walking and swimming.
Men who spend long periods cycling should ensure that their bike fits them properly, wear padded cycling shorts and stand up frequently when cycling to reduce genital numbness and sexual dysfunction. The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety recommend the use of “no-nose” bike seats.
It can also reduce those nocturnal visits to the toilet too.
Men have a pelvic floor too, just like women but very few men are aware that doing pelvic floor exercises can increase penile hardness and rigidity, improving the quality of your erections. It is recommended that you seek advice from a physiotherapist, trained in men’s health to instruct you how to do these exercises correctly.
This may come as a surprise to you as a cause of ED but chronic gum disease can induce heart disease which is linked to ED. A study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in December 2012 found that men in their 30’s who suffered from inflamed gums caused by chronic peridontal disease were three times more likely to suffer from symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Chronic periodontal disease predominately affects the elasticity of the endothelial lining which may impact upon the vascular supply to the penis.
Regular dental cleaning and flossing will keep your gums and mouth healthy and more kissable and your sex life in good shape. You should seek medical advice if you notice significant gum bleeding.
Some ED can occur as a result of penile damage due to risky sex. Avoid certain positions when having sexual intercourse which may place excessive strain on the penis.
Many sex toys are not designed to treat erectile dysfunction (ED). However, some of them offer ways in which men can experience sexual pleasure, such as through vibratory stimulation. Other products enable a man to sustain an erection suitable for coital sex, or change the way his erection feels.
From male vibrators such as Pulse Solo which can be used with a flaccid or erect penis for solo pleasure and couples pplay, to constriction rings which can help men to maintain their erection, making it feel firmer and last longer and masturbatory sleeves like the Fleshlight Stamina Training Unit which has been designed to help men who experience premature ejaculation and improve their endurance. The inner sleeve’s texture is made up of tightly-packed large bumps, designed to provide intense pleasure and, with practice, helping to prolong ejaculation.
The psychological impact of stress upon penile function can be huge and is often the main cause of ED for younger men Stress increases the production of adrenalin which causes constriction of blood vessels, reducing blood flow. Feeling stressed affect your sex life, making you less inclined to want sex. Finding the root cause of your stress can help to improve the way you feel emotionally and hopefully give your sex life a boost too.
By implementing some of these changes into your life you can prevent ED and enjoy the benefits of increased penis health and sexual pleasure, as well as improving your overall health and well-being.
If you are concerned about ED always seek medical advice.