Sexual health is an important part of overall health, and it includes sexual pleasure, reproduction, and protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Anyone can experience good sexual health by knowing their own body and what makes them feel good, being comfortable communicating with partners about sex, and using condoms and other prevention methods when needed.
However, sometimes that still falls short and your body will refuse to cooperate. One way this can happen in males, in particular, is erectile dysfunction, a condition in which a man has difficulty getting or maintaining an erection long enough to have a satisfactory sex life.
In this article, we will look at some simple but effective ways that you can naturally protect your sexual health by avoiding and treating erectile dysfunction.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is when a man cannot achieve an erection due to problems with blood flow, nerve function, or sexual psychology. It can be caused by many different factors, including age, lifestyle choices, hereditary predisposition, health conditions, and certain medications. Erectile Dysfunction may affect males at any stage of their life but is most common in men aged 40 and older. Though most cases of Erectile Dysfunction are self-regulated and resolve over time without treatment or intervention, some men experience persistent difficulties achieving an erection that interfere with their quality of life. Erectile Dysfunction can lead to decreased sexual satisfaction, relationship problems, and even depression.
Lifestyle Methods That May Prevent ED
One of the most important things a man can do to prevent Erectile Dysfunction is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and avoiding tobacco use. Additionally, men should avoid drinking alcohol excessively or using recreational drugs such as marijuana. All of these activities can lead to health problems that may affect erectile function in men.
Exercise is of particular importance for preventing Erectile Dysfunction. A regular exercise program can improve overall health and well-being, including reducing the risk of developing other diseases such as obesity or heart disease. Exercise has been shown to improve overall cardiovascular health and may also help preserve sexual function by improving blood flow throughout the body. Additionally, regular physical activity can reduce stress levels which can lead to problems with erection quality or performance.
2. Staying Stress-Free
Maintaining a stress-free lifestyle may also be beneficial in preventing Erectile Dysfunction for a variety of reasons. First, stress and the various unpleasant feelings whose forms it can take can interfere with the signaling process that allows your brain to increase blood flow to the penis. Second, stress can also lead to poor sleep quality and increased levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that has been linked with many health problems, including Erectile Dysfunction.
It’s also important to note that erectile dysfunction can in fact be the result of primarily psychological issues, with some sources estimating that 10% to 20% of all cases of erectile discussion primarily stem from psychological factors rather than physiological ones. Stress, like other psychological issues such as depression, guilt, relationship issues, anxiety, and low self-esteem, is among the most common of these factors.
All of this is particularly problematic because erectile dysfunction can serve as a major stressor of its own, meaning that you can get stuck into a cycle whereby stress causes erectile dysfunction, erectile dysfunction increases the stress you experience on a daily basis, and that stress, in turn, maintains your sexual dysfunction. By reducing stress in your life, you may be able to improve your overall health and decrease the risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
3. Eating Healthy
Healthy eating is another key lifestyle adjustment that can help prevent and treat Erectile Dysfunction. There is a strong connection between diet and Erectile Dysfunction, as diets high in processed foods, sugary drinks, and red meat products (especially ones containing saturated fats), are all known contributors to obesity and other health problems such as coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes mellitus, which may increase your risk of Erectile Dysfunction
Red meats, such as beef, lamb, pork, and processed meats, like bacon, hot dogs, and ham, are particularly problematic here because these are some of the worst offenders when it comes to clogging arteries, which worsens blood flow to all organs – including the male sex organ.
Instead, aim to increase your intake of whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These provide the body with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients that are beneficial for sexual health. A plant-based diet is particularly advisable, and obviously, a healthy diet will also improve your overall health by decreasing your weight and improving general cardiovascular health.
4. Having a Healthy Weight
A healthy weight is necessary for a healthy body and mind and has a significant impact on a number of bodily systems that impact erectile function, but is also of more direct importance where sexual health is concerned. Overall weight status has consistently been shown to have an impact on both erectile function and libido. Indeed, BMIs in the overweight to the obese range can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction by 30 to 90% depending on your exact weight and health. The impact is so pronounced that obese patients can see drastic improvements in erectile function by losing even just a small fraction of their total weight.
If you are concerned about your weight, there are a few ways to determine if you need to lose weight. One way is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI can be found by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. A BMI of 25 is indicative of excessive weight, while a BMI of 30 and above is generally classified as obese. If you think your weight might be affecting your sexual health then talk to your doctor about getting checked out for obesity or Erectile Dysfunction.
5. Not Smoking
Smoking is known to be a major cause of erectile dysfunction (ED) due to its impact on cardiovascular health. Smoking increases heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to a number of serious health complications over time. It also has a negative effect on lipid levels, increasing the risk for atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases.
It’s not just a matter of cardiovascular health either. Smoking is also a major cause of premature aging, an important thing to consider given that erectile dysfunction is most prominent in man aged 45 and above. There is just no way around the fact that smoking harms the body in a multitude of ways.
Suffice to say that smoking is a major risk factor for all sorts of diseases and that quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of developing both erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular complications in general.
6. Sleeping a Healthy Amount
There is a growing body of research indicating that sleep may play an important role in the maintenance of Erectile Dysfunction. One study found that men who slept fewer than seven hours per night were more likely to experience problems with their erection compared to those who slept eight or more hours each night. In addition, another study showed that sleeping less than six hours was associated with a greater risk of developing Erectile Dysfunction over time.
Conversely, other studies have shown no association between poor sleep and Erectile Dysfunction. It appears that the amount and quality of sleep vary depending on individual factors such as age, sex, lifestyle habits, etc., which makes it difficult to generalize results from one study to another.
Nevertheless, the findings of these studies suggest that getting a sufficient amount of sleep may be an important factor in preventing or resolving Erectile Dysfunction. If you are experiencing problems with your erection, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor about whether sleeping more or less might help.
7. Sex Therapy and Couples Counseling
As mentioned above, erectile dysfunction can be the result of psychological struggles or relationship difficulties. Sex therapy and couples counseling offer a way for individuals to address and work through such issues in a safe setting, particularly when they are related to their sex lives and relationship. These therapies can also be beneficial for couples who are experiencing communication challenges in their relationship, or for individuals who are struggling with sexual issues or fixations that may be difficult to discuss with people who are not professionals. The goal of couples counseling is to improve communication and relationship dynamics, which can lead to better sexual outcomes. Additionally, therapy may provide relief from stress, anxiety, and other psychological factors that could be contributing to erectile dysfunction.
8. Avoid Overzealous Alcohol Consumption
There is a significant connection between alcohol and erectile dysfunction, and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to long-term erectile problems. In fact, heavy alcohol use – even if acute – leads to lower blood testosterone levels in men. It is this decrease that can lead to various issues related to male sexual function, including difficulty achieving an erection.
Lower alcohol consumption also offers benefits to other health conditions that are themselves risk factors for erectile dysfunction, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and general cardiovascular health. It also results in a healthier lipid profile, which is yet another benefit of lower alcohol consumption that can help reduce the likelihood of erectile dysfunction.
All in all, as with smoking, medical studies and surveys have made it exceedingly clear that excessive (or, in the case of some drugs, even habitual) consumption is bad for the body and bad for sexual health. Reducing or, ideally, ceasing consumption entirely is thus a key lifestyle change that can be employed to treat erectile dysfunction.
Erectile Dysfunction Treatments and Solutions
Should lifestyle changes not prove sufficient to address the issues, there are also a number of additional treatments people with erectile dysfunction can seek out, which range from hormone therapy to penile surgery, but doctors will generally attempt less invasive treatments, such as the aforementioned lifestyle changes or oral medication, before resorting to more drastic intervention strategies. These oral medications are generally consumed between one and two hours prior to sex and usually work by improving blood flow into the penis. Most men will experience some degree of improvement after treatment is initiated. It is important to note, however, that about half of all men who receive treatment will still have occasional difficulties achieving an erection later on in life.
Sildenafil (you might know it as Viagra) is a drug that treats Erectile Dysfunction through vasodilation, that is, by increasing blood flow to the penis. It is taken by mouth and can be bought over the counter in some countries.
Side effects of sildenafil include headache, flushing, heartburn, diarrhea, nosebleeds, insomnia, numbness in the appendages, muscles aches, sensitivity to light, and blue tinting of vision. These side effects usually go away within a few hours after taking the drug. However, they can sometimes lead to serious problems such as heart attack or stroke if taken without proper caution.
It is absolutely vital that you always talk with your doctor before starting any new medicine for erectile dysfunction, and you should do so regardless of whether the medication in question is available over the counter or not.
Tadalafil is another vasodilator, and like Sildenafil (and most other erectile dysfunction drugs), it too is classified as a PDE type-5 inhibitor. PDE here stands for phosphodiesterase, and its inhibition is key in relaxing blood vessels to improve blood flow to the penis, which helps ensure erectile function. Tadalafil is generally taken at least 30 minutes before anticipated sexual activity, and should not be used more than once a day.
Side effects of tadalafil can include headaches, lightheadedness, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, flushing, and pains or aches in the stomach, back, and appendages. As with Sildenafil, careless use can result in more serious symptoms ranging from chest pain and difficulty breathing to permanent loss of vision.
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The Bottom Line
So when it comes to treating erectile dysfunction (ED), sildenafil and tadalafil are two of the most common medications prescribed. But which one is better?
Both sildenafil and tadalafil are PDE type-5 inhibitors that work by increasing blood flow to the penis, helping men achieve an erection. They are approximately equally effective and are comparable in price. However, there are some key differences between these drugs that may affect how well they work for different people.
While both drugs are fast-acting, tadalafil generally works just a slight little bit faster than Sildenafil. Additionally, tadalafil also lasts longer much longer (up to 36 hours), meaning its consumption does not have to be specifically timed for sexual activity, whereas Sildenafil only lasts for four to six hours. However, Sildenafil has been on the market for much longer than not only tadalafil but most erectile dysfunction medications. Also, though tadalafil and sildenafil share a lot of side effects, Sildenafil does have a few that Tadalafil does not – specifically, blueish vision, rashes, and diarrhea.
Overall, though either of the two medications are equally good choices for treating erectile dysfunction, Tadalafil is a more modern solution that is better tailored towards a more flexible sex life, and also doesn’t come with the risk of some of the side effects that Sildenafil does.
There are a number of ways that you can protect your erection naturally, including eating healthy, getting enough exercise, and sleeping a healthy amount. However, it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to preventing or treating Erectile Dysfunction. Different men will respond differently to different treatments, so always speak with your doctor before starting any new course of action.
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This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.