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.
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).
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.