Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common concern that many men will face at some point in their life. By some estimates, over half of men age 40 and older experience some form of ED.
Although ED seems like specifically a reproductive health concern, it is often a manifestation of a systemic problem.
Get A Physical
The concern of ED may spur you to go to see a doctor, but the root cause is more important. During a physical, your doctor will check other health issues that may contribute to ED. Your prostate health and routine blood work are important for assessing underlying problems. If you are age 40 to 50, depending on your risk factors, you should have routine prostate exams. Not only can prostate cancer contribute to ED, but benign conditions, such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) can also cause ED.
Both conditions often manifest with urinary symptoms, such as frequent nighttime urination, sudden urges, and the feeling of being unable to completely empty your bladder. Other aspects of your physical will include checking your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Each condition can affect blood flow to the penis, causing the inability to achieve and maintain an erection. If your doctor determines there are indicators for chronic disease, they will likely prescribe medications to help your number reach acceptable levels.
Some common classes of medications for hypertension include ACE inhibitors, beta-blockers and diuretics. Since many of these medications also act as a vasodilator, meaning they help relax the blood vessels, they can simultaneously help improve blood flow to the penis. High blood sugar can damage blood vessel and nerves, causing permanent blood flow disruption and neuropathy.
Medications, such as metformin, can bring blood glucose to acceptable levels. Lastly, high cholesterol can cause blockages in the blood vessels. This obstructs the flow of blood throughout the body. Statins are often used to help with high cholesterol, but can have additional side effects, such as muscle pain.
Make Healthy Choices
No matter your numbers, a healthy lifestyle is important to reduce your likelihood of developing ED and helping reverse the condition if it occurs. Two major lifestyle choices you should fix are smoking and your consumption of alcohol. Smoking can decrease blood flow throughout your body. Excessive alcohol consumption can also have harmful effects on your body. Although the recommended guidelines for men regarding alcohol are one to two drinks per day, if you currently have problems with ED, you may need to limit your intake further.
Being overweight or obese can also contribute to ED and many of the chronic diseases associated with the condition. Making small changes to improve your weight and overall health, such as reducing your intake of trans and saturated fats, sugar, sodium and carbohydrates is an important start. You should increase your daily calorie expenditure by engaging in regular exercise. Incorporating weight training can also help because it boosts testosterone levels.
Many supplements are available to help with underlying conditions associated with ED and for the condition itself. For example, if you have cardiovascular concerns, you may want to increase your fiber intake and consider adding Coenzyme Q10 supplements. Both fiber and CoQ10 can help improve cardiovascular health, such as reducing cholesterol inside the body, regulating blood pressure, and reducing systemic inflammation associated with the increased risk of heart attack.
Antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as in omega-3 fatty acids, have protective and anti-inflammatory benefits to help reverse blood vessel damage. Adding cinnamon to your diet or through supplement form can also help regulate blood sugar if you have diabetes, and help your medication or dietary changes work better. Some supplements, such as ginseng, are considered to increase vitality in men and may help with ED.
Since these supplements often act as a stimulant, they may temporarily increase blood flow to the penis. If you have underlying heart and blood vessel problems, speak with your doctor before trying any supplement. They can interact with medications you currently take or cause additional concerns, such as priapism.
Although ED may be your primary concern, you must have thorough testing to determine if problems with ED are the result of underlying conditions. If you are otherwise healthy, you can determine if lifestyle changes, supplements, or medications can help you safely improve ED.