How Lifestyle Choices Affect Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction affects over 30 million men in the United States alone, and it can have a devastating effect on men and their partners. The percentage of men with ED is increasing, particularly among younger men.
It’s important to understand that ED is not a single disease. It is a condition that can result from many different underlying causes, both organic (physical) and psychological. The most common cause of ED, especially among older men, is vascular degeneration, or circulatory problems. As blood vessels stiffen and fill with plaque, they can no longer deliver the blood flow needed to produce an erection.
In most cases, when ED has an organic cause like poor circulation, there is no cure. Medications like Viagra and Cialis simply provide temporary treatment for the symptoms. However, lifestyle choices that improve vascular health may reduce the symptoms, and prevent the condition from worsening as you age. The great thing about these lifestyle changes is that they contribute to your overall health, in addition to helping with ED!
Top Ways to Improve Your Vascular Health
If you smoke, stop! Smoking is a major contributor to poor cardio-vascular health.
Stop or reduce alcohol consumption. Men should have no more than two drinks per day. There is evidence that red wine may be better for heart-health than other forms of alcohol.
Get regular exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity.
Manage your weight. If you are overweight, start a weight-loss program.
Eat a heart-healthy, Mediterranean diet. You’ll find many articles on the web about the Mediterranean diet, but the basics are simple.
Meals should be plant based, consisting mostly of:
- Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
- Beans and legumes
- Sweet potatoes or yams
Meat portions should be small (about 4 ounces). Substitute fish or poultry for red meat at most meals, and avoid processed meats like sausage and bacon.
For snacks, choose nuts, pumpkin seeds, vegetables, or whole-grain crackers.
Substitute olive oil, canola oil, or all-natural peanut butter for corn oil, butter, and margarine.
Choose low-fat dairy products.
Season your meals with herbs and spices instead of salt.
Avoid refined sugar, sweetened drinks, or foods packed in sugary syrup.
Include foods that may improve ED. Some studies have shown that specific foods may reduce ED. Note that none of these foods are “magic bullets” that will have a big effect on your condition, but including them in your diet may help.
- Pink grapefruit
- Salmon and other fatty fish
Drink coffee in moderation. Studies have shown that men who consume the equivalent of 2-3 cups of coffee per day have a 39% lower incidence of erectile dysfunction than men who do not drink coffee. However, drinking too much coffee can actually increase ED.
Reduce your stress. Stress and anxiety cause your body to release adrenalin. Adrenalin is the body’s “fight or flight” signal. It constricts small blood vessels in the extremities in order to direct more blood and oxygen to major muscle groups. By constriction the small blood vessels, ED prevents an erection.
If you regularly feel stressed or anxious, consider lifestyle changes or counseling to reduce your stress levels. Meditation or yoga can also be great stress-reducers.
Consult Your Doctor
If you are in poor health, or suffer from high blood pressure or a heart condition, sudden changes to your diet and exercise patterns can be dangerous.
Talk to your doctor about the changes you intend to make. He may recommend a gradual transition to your new, healthy lifestyle.
Stick with It!
One of the hardest things about lifestyle changes is sticking with the program. It usually takes 2 to 3 months to see and feel results. Many people find it helpful to make a chart or table to track your progress. You can list things like what you ate, how many minutes you exercised, how far you walked, and so on.
Changing your health habits and lifestyle can have a positive effect on your life… and may just help with ED!