Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem affecting an estimated 18 million American men. Lack of sufficient blood flow to the penis caused by problems with the arteries, veins, and nerves supplying the penis can result in erectile difficulties.
The penis really can be the window into your heart
ED may also be one of the earliest signs of a bigger problem: Heart Disease. The connection is real. Studies have shown ED can precede other symptoms and consequences of heart disease such as chest pain, heart attack, and stroke. The penis really can be the window into your heart.
Seriously though, risk factors for ED are strikingly similar to the risk factors for heart disease. The risks for both include smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, diabetes, high-blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Fortunately, many of these conditions are reversible.
Your ticket to better erections and a better you
A healthy lifestyle decreases the risk for heart problems, makes you feel and look better, and can maintain and improve erectile function. Sounds too good to be true? Think not. A healthy lifestyle may be your ticket to better erections and a better you.
What is a “healthy lifestyle?”
Diet, exercise, and weight loss. Without question, a strategy focused on regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, and weight loss can improve erectile function. This statement is backed by several studies.
a heart-healthy diet
A diet is “heart-healthy” if it has proven benefits for your cardiovascular system. The blood vessels in your heart damaged by cholesterol, high-blood pressure, and excess blood sugars are very similar to the much smaller blood vessels in your penis that supply erections. This is why ED can be a precursor to the serious consequences of heart disease.
You will improve blood flow by avoiding foods rich in cholesterol and increasing your intake of foods rich in antioxidants, folate, L-arginine, and B-12. Couple this with a disciplined exercise schedule and you’re on your way to boosting your erections.
In one of the more convincing studies, 145 overweight men realized significant improvement in erectile function after participating in a regimented program of diet, exercise, and weight loss.
Another study including 21,469 men, showed those who ate a Mediterranean diet generally had lower incidence of ED compared to those who ate an unhealthy diet. A Mediterranean diet is rich in plant-based foods, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, and fish.
How much exercise do I need?
After consulting with your doctor, push yourself. The more you do, the better. Studies suggest a structured exercise regime of 160 minutes per week of moderate aerobic intensity divided into 4 weekly, 40 minute sessions over the course of 6 months can improve erectile health, which may improve rigidity and stamina.
Increase the effectiveness of oral ED medications
Regular physical activity and exercise has also been shown to increase the effectiveness of the oral medications commonly used to treat ED like Viagra® (sildenafil) and Cialis® (tadalafil). On a molecular level, physical exercise improves nitric oxide production in the endothelial cells of blood vessels and can improve blood flow to the penis. It is through this pathway exercise enhances the effects of oral ED medications.
Physical inactivity is one of the main risk factors for cardiovascular disease, so increasing physical exercise can improve sexual performance and cardiovascular health.
Aerobic exercise is most effective in improving erectile function
Physical activity is defined as active body movement resulting in energy expenditure (walking, swimming, biking, doing household chores). Physical exercises are specific physical activities aimed to improve physical fitness (weight lifting, resistance training). Both sexual function and cardiovascular health can be improved by physical activity and regimented exercise. Studies have shown moderate to intense aerobic exercise is most effective in improving erectile function.
exercise and testosterone
Exercise is also a great way of naturally raising testosterone production. This not only improves erectile function, but can also enhance libido, promote lean muscle mass, and improve concentration and energy.
Smoking and ED
Besides exercise, diet, and weight loss, smoking cessation is also a fantastic way of improving erectile function. Studies have shown that cigarette smoking is a significant contributor to ED. If you smoke, quitting is another element to add to your healthy lifestyle strategy, especially for younger individuals. Your lungs and heart will thank you later.
Although medications are commonly used to treat ED, studies have shown there are many natural, holistic actions a man can take to improve erectile function. Eat healthier, do aerobic exercise, lose weight if you’re overweight, and stop smoking if you smoke. These lifestyle changes will not only improve your performance in bed, but also improve your whole-health.
Jeffrey Loh-Doyle, MD
Keck Medicine of USC
1516 San Pablo St, Ste 3500
Los Angeles, CA 90033