Erections are the consequence of a well-tuned balance of hormones, healthy heart and brain functioning and the action of blood vessels. Erectile dysfunctions are often a sign that some of these processes are disturbed. But before you reach for Viagra and co., there are lots of opportunities to strengthen erections naturally.
The causes for erectile dysfunction will vary from patient to patient, but can be due to an underlying medical condition such as obesity and diabetes. Metabolic syndromes such as obesity and cardiovascular disorders affect erections because they disrupt healthy testosterone levels and narrow the small blood vessels in the penis. If blood is unable to reach the penis fast enough, erectile dysfunction is inevitable.
Anxiety and depression are mental health conditions which lead to sexual dysfunction. Previous studies found that higher levels of anxiety and depressive disorder were associated with erectile dysfunction. Anxious people often direct their attention toward their thoughts or assessing a potentially threatening situation. Sex with a new partner, for example, could be perceived as a scary or threatening situation for some men.
Besides medical conditions, there are many lifestyle choices that can affect proper sexual functioning. For example, smoking has been tied to erectile disorders because it affects biochemical mechanisms which govern healthy neuronal action. Smokers were also found to have a disrupted penis endothelium – the fancy term for the cells lining the blood vessels.
Eating plenty of whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits as well as legumes has been shown to have a positive effect on sexual activity. One review found that the Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, healthy oils and fresh foods even reversed erectile dysfunction in diabetes 2 patients.
Another study followed patients on a Mediterranean diet for two years and found an improvement in erectile dysfunction.
Making changes can be particularly important if you are suffering from any metabolic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure or diabetes. Limit your consumption of red meats, dairy products, high sugar foods and alcohol as these can have a negative effect on erections.
Try to avoid a big meal before having sex as this diverts blood flow toward the digestive tract and away from the penis.
Even moderate levels of physical activity have been shown to lower the risk of erectile disorders. The Massachusetts Male Aging study found that exercise had a positive effect on prevention and improving erectile dysfunction. But it’s not only healthy patients who benefit from the effects of physical activity. In patients with hypertension, just eight weeks of activity for up to one hour per day improved erectile dysfunction.
Losing weight, which is often achieved through a combination of physical activity and dietary changes, not only improves erectile dysfunction, but lowers the risk of associated conditions such as obesity and diabetes. In a study of 34 men and women, a weight loss program was shown to positively affect the sex life of participants. In another study, weight loss of just 10% improved testosterone levels and insulin sensitivity in diabetic patients.
Sleep is vital for general health. A lack of sleep raises the risk of heart conditions, immune system disorders and metabolic syndromes, all of which can diminish sexual pleasure. A single week of sleep deprivation (five hours per night) decreased testosterone levels by up to 15%. Poor sleep patterns tend to have an effect on libido, energy levels and concentration. Getting a good night’s sleep (between seven to nine hours) has positve effects on mental health too.
Erectile dysfunction in young men is often linked to stress. Stressful events at home or chronic work stress disrupt vital neurochemical and hormonal processes in the brain. These events lead to a greater production of stress hormones which contract the smooth muscles in the penis. For an erection to occur, the smooth muscles must relax. One research study found that mindfulness meditation had a positive effect on lowering anxiety and stress after eight weeks.
If you are a smoker, your odds of erectile dysfunction are significantly higher than those for non-smokers. But the good news is that the effects can be reversed once you stop. Research has shown that erectile disorders improved within 12 months for ex-smokers.
Heavy drinking increases the risk of sexual dysfunction. Among 100 men admitted for alcohol dependence, 72% had erectile dysfunction. But whether your sex life degrades because of alcohol will depend on the amount you consume. There are some studies which suggest that a moderate intake of alcohol could even be protective, but the jury is still out on these claims.
There you have it. By addressing these lifestyle changes, you can promote stronger erections and avoid erectile dysfunction in the future.