How to Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
In straightforward terms, erectile dysfunction, otherwise known as impotence, is being unable to get an erection and keep it firm enough and long enough to have sexual intercourse. Let’s look at how to prevent erectile dysfunction in the first place.
Not having an erection every now and then isn’t too much of a concern because several things could be responsible for that, chief of which is stress. However, if erectile dysfunction is an ongoing issue, it can affect your self-confidence and contribute to relationship problems. Problems getting or keeping an erection can also be a sign of an underlying health condition that needs treatment and a risk factor for heart disease (1).
So, if you’re having erection issues, you should definitely see a doctor. It might be embarrassing to talk about, but in the end, it might be fixable. Your doctor will diagnose you with ED if the condition lasts for more than a few weeks or months (2). If an underlying health condition is responsible for erectile dysfunction, once it’s treated, you will be home-free. Otherwise, you might need to take medications or some other form of direct treatment.
Early symptoms of erectile dysfunction could include:
- Persistent trouble getting an erection
- Persistent trouble keeping an erection
- Decreased sexual desire
What causes Erectile dysfunction(ED)?
Sexual excitement or arousal in males is a complex process that involves the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem with any of the above or in the erection process. Likewise, stress and mental health concerns can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction (1).
An erection occurs when there is increased blood flow into the penis. This blood flow is usually stimulated by sexual thoughts or direct contact with the penis (3).
When a man is sexually excited, muscles in the penis relax. This allows for increased blood flow through the penile arteries, filling two chambers inside the penis. As the chambers fill with blood, the penis grows rigid and becomes engorged (3). The erection ends when the muscles contract and the blood can flow out through the penile vein.
Sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues causes erectile dysfunction. For instance, a minor physical condition that slows your sexual response might cause anxiety about maintaining an erection. The resulting anxiety can lead to or worsen erectile dysfunction (1).
The leading causes of erectile dysfunction are emotional, physical, mental, and psychological, and they include (3):
- cardiovascular disease
- hypertension, or high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
- low testosterone levels or other hormone imbalances
- kidney disease
- increased age
- relationship problems
- certain prescription medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure or depression
- sleep disorders
- drug use
- consuming too much alcohol
- using tobacco products
- certain health conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (MS)
- damage to the pelvic area through injury or surgery
- Peyronie’s disease, which causes scar tissue to develop in the penis
ED can be caused by only one of these factors or by several of them. That’s why it’s important to work with your doctor so that they can rule out or treat any underlying medical conditions.
As men age, erectile dysfunction becomes more common. But this isn’t a trend that is set in stone. As with many things, lifestyle choices can help to avoid it.
How to prevent Erectile dysfunction
1. Watch what you eat
A diet that’s bad for a man’s health is also bad for their penis. Research has shown that the same eating patterns that can cause heart attacks due to restricted blood flow in the coronary arteries can also impede blood flow to and within the penis. The blood flow is needed for the penis to become erect.
Diets that include very few fruits and vegetables and lots of fatty, fried, and processed foods can contribute to decreased blood circulation throughout the body (4).
Another research has shown that erectile dysfunction is relatively lower in men who eat a traditional diet that contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats, including nuts and olive oil, fish, and wine, especially red (4).
“The link between the Mediterranean diet and improved sexual function has been scientifically established,” says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Erectile dysfunction is not the only health problem that can arise when a person is overweight. Others include type 2 diabetes which can cause nerve damage throughout the body. If diabetes affects the nerves that supply the penis, erectile dysfunction can result (4).
So, as a man, you have to run away from being obese.
3. Avoid having high blood pressure and high cholesterol
High cholesterol or high blood pressure can damage blood vessels, including those that bring blood to the penis. Prolonged damage may lead to erectile dysfunction.
Be sure to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked frequently. You might want to check your blood pressure between doctor visits, basically whenever you can. Some stores and fire stations offer free screenings. You could also buy a blood pressure monitor for home use. It would be best to avoid risk factors that can lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
4. Reduce alcohol intake
“There is no evidence that mild or even moderate alcohol consumption is bad for erectile function,” says Ira Sharlip, MD, a professor of urology at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. But chronic heavy drinking can cause liver damage, nerve damage, and other conditions, such as interfering with the normal balance of male sex hormone levels, leading to erectile dysfunction.
5. Exercise regularly
Strong evidence links a sedentary lifestyle to erectile dysfunction. Running, swimming, and other forms of aerobic exercise have been shown to help prevent ED.
Watch out for any form of exercise that puts excessive pressure on the perineum, which is the area between the scrotum and anus. Both the blood vessels and the nerves that supply the penis can be adversely affected by excessive pressure in this area. Bicycle riding, in particular, can cause ED.
An occasional short ride is unlikely to cause trouble. But men who spend a lot of time biking should make sure their bike fits them properly, wear padded cycling pants, and stand up frequently while pedaling (4).
“No-nose” bike seats protect against genital numbness and sexual dysfunction, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
6. Don’t rely on Kegels
One form of exercise that doesn’t seem helpful is Kegel exercises (which involves repeatedly contracting and relaxing the muscles in the pelvis). Kegels can be helpful for men and women suffering from incontinence (inability to pass urine voluntarily). But there’s no evidence that they prevent erectile dysfunction.
7. Keep tabs on testosterone levels
Even in healthy men, testosterone levels often begin falling sharply around age 50. Every year after age 40, a man’s testosterone level typically falls about 1.3% (4).
Symptoms like a low sex drive, moodiness, lack of stamina, or trouble making decisions suggest a testosterone deficiency, as do weak erections. Let your doctor check that. If you are a young man and your testosterone level is falling significantly, your doctor would definitely have drug prescriptions to help with that.
8. Avoid anabolic steroids
These drugs, often abused by athletes and bodybuilders, can shrink the testicles and sap the ability to make testosterone. And you don’t want that. Remember that the hormone testosterone is important for erections to happen.
9. Don’t smoke
Smoking cigarettes can harm blood vessels and curb blood flow to the penis. Nicotine makes blood vessels contract, which can hamper blood flow to the penis.
10. Steer clear of risky sex.
Believe it or not, some cases of erectile dysfunction arise from injuries to the penis that occurred during sex. Taking your time and avoiding certain positions can help protect the penis. Please don’t overdo it. It might feel weird, but consider talking to your doctor about what to do and, more importantly, what not to do.
11. Reduce stress from your life.
Psychological stress boosts levels of the hormone adrenaline, which makes blood vessels contract. That can be bad news for an erection. Anything a man can do to ease tension and feel better emotionally is likely to give their sex life a big boost.
Treatment of ED
Treatment for ED will depend on the underlying cause. You may need to use a combination of treatments, including medication or talk therapy.
The following oral medications stimulate blood flow to your penis to help treat ED:
- avanafil (Stendra)
- sildenafil (Viagra)
- tadalafil (Cialis)
- vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)
- Alprostadil (Caverject, Edex, MUSE) is another medication that you can use to treat ED. It can be administered in two ways: as a penile suppository or as a self-injection at the base or side of the penis.
Please don’t take any of these drugs until you consult your doctor.
Psychological factors like stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression can cause erectile dysfunction.
If you’re experiencing psychological ED, you may benefit from talk therapy. Over several sessions, you and your therapist will discuss:
- major stress or anxiety factors
- your feelings around sex
- subconscious conflicts that could be affecting your sexual well-being
This treatment uses the creation of a vacuum to stimulate an erection. Blood is drawn into the penis as the device is used, leading to an erection.
The Penomet comes in handy with this. If you have moderate erectile dysfunction, the Penomet can significantly help you get and maintain a strong erection.
To recap, erectile dysfunction is being unable to get an erection and keep it firm enough and long enough to have sexual intercourse or engage in any other sexual activity. Trouble getting an erection, keeping an erection, and decreased sexual desire are symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
Lifestyle adjustments in food, exercise, and alcohol, amongst others, can go a long way to preventing erectile dysfunction.
Use of medication, talk therapy, and vacuum pumps are some of the ways to treat erectile dysfunction, depending on the underlying cause.