Most men associate virility with youth, so it's no wonder that the idea of eventually experiencing diminished virility or erectile dysfunction (ED) can be a dismal thought for a man. No one wants to feel old before his time or have age interfere with his ability to fully enjoy a sexual relationship with a partner. Understanding the causes of erectile dysfunction, how to prevent it, and how to cure erectile dysfunction without pills may help you feel more in control of your sex life through the years.
What's Happening with Erectile Dysfunction?
Certain conditions or medications can interfere with a man's ability to achieve an erection. When this happens repeatedly, it is called erectile dysfunction. A fairly common condition, ED affects an estimated 15 to 30 million American men.
The causes of erectile dysfunction are varied. Countless muscles, tissues, veins, nerves, and arteries are involved in the natural processes that lead to an erection, so anytime this complex sequence of events is interrupted, ED can result.
Certain surgeries and injuries can cause erectile dysfunction. It can also be caused by diseases that affect the tissues, nerves, or arteries involved in erections. These diseases include diabetes, kidney disease, vascular disease, and neurological disease. Some medications, such as blood pressure medication, antihistamines, and antidepressants, may have ED-related side effects. For 10% to 20% of men, the culprits are psychological factors such as stress, depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological factors cause erectile dysfunction.
Instead of relying on medication for sexual satisfaction, there may be a medication-free way to cure erectile dysfunction: losing weight. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated a strong connection between weight loss and sexual function. In the study, of the 55 obese men with erectile dysfunction who lost at least 10% of their body weight through diet and exercise, about one-third reported improvement in their sexual function.
Another way to restore sexual vigor is to start walking. Research shows that physical activity -- even without a dramatic shift in weight -- may positively affect sexual function. In a study, men who were physically active had a lower risk of ED, whereas men who were sedentary had a higher risk of ED. Even when other health conditions were taken into account, men who lived a healthy lifestyle -- one including regular exercise -- were more likely to maintain their erectile function as they aged. It's never too late to begin these healthy habits; even men who increased their physical activity in midlife had a lower risk of developing ED compared with their inactive peers.
Not surprisingly, men with ED also have a higher risk of coronary artery disease. That's because unhealthy lifestyles contribute not only to the aging of blood vessels in the penis but also to the aging of blood vessels related to cardiovascular function. The bottom line: When you improve your ability to enjoy sex, you are adding years to your life as well.
Increasing physical activity may make the most sense for men whose erectile dysfunction is the result of obesity, obesity-related disease, or psychological problems. Not only is increased physical activity a great recipe for weight loss, but research also has shown it can help alleviate stress, anxiety, and mild feelings of depression -- all common psychological causes of ED.
There is one catch: Physical activity and weight loss may not improve sexual function if ED is caused by an underlying disease or by certain medications.
However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing additional medical conditions that may negatively affect your sex life. And some of the physiological effects of exercise -- increased blood flow to all parts of the body and improved circulation -- may have an effect on sexual function.
If you smoke, quit! Smoking is a major contributor to erectile problems, even in younger men. After only one day of quitting, you may begin to see improvement.
If you worry about losing your sexual function later in life, taking preventive measures now can lessen your chance of losing sexual ability later. Erectile dysfunction is a common problem that doesn't have to be. Talk with your doctor to see if you are at your ideal weight and whether weight loss might be an effective means of restoring -- or preserving -- your sexual health.
If weight loss isn't the answer to your personal situation, remember there are many other effective solutions for treating and managing erectile dysfunction. Engaging in an open and honest dialogue with your doctor about your sexual health will help you find the best solution for your specific condition.