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5 things that can help erectile dysfunction

Published:Wednesday | July 2, 2014 | 12:00 AM

According to a new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, there are five key things that can help with the treatment of erectile dysfunction - proper weight management, adequate sleep, a structured exercise programme, limited alcoholic intake and a proper, balanced diet.

Conducted in Australia, researchers analysed 765 men, 35-80, in a longitudinal study. The majority were in the older age bracket.

Using a questionnaire to collect data on the men's sexual desire, sexual activity and sexual preferences, each person's erectile function was also assessed using another questionnaire.

Participants were also asked about their overall health - such as weight, alcohol intake, physical activity, depression and sleep. When they followed up with these men after five years, they found that the males, whose habits and health improved over time, tended to see an improvement in sexual function.

Noting that erectile dysfunction affects men of all ages, Darius Paduch, MD, urologist and male sexual medicine specialist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said he often advises his patients to make changes in their lifestyle.

He stated that sexual dysfunction in men is often caused by something that is also life threatening, cardiovascular problems.

"I've seen patient's sexual function improve with healthy lifestyle changes and consistent healthy habits," the doctor noted. "These men are often able to go off of medication without seeing a decrease in their sexual function."

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT

Paduch said men who are obese have much lower testosterone levels, which plays a major part in sexual function. He advises overweight men to lose the pounds by changing their diet and increasing physical activity, which goes a far way in improving erectile problems.

ADEQUATE SLEEP

"When I see a patient with ED, I ask his partner if he snores. If they say yes, I have him evaluated for sleep apnea," stated Paduch. This is because sleep apnea will interrupt a man's sleep cycle, affecting the normal cycles of erections that happen during the night. He also advises that men get adequate sleep, as sleep deprivation can affect his sex drive. A good sign of a good night's sleep is a man's ritualistic morning 'rise'. If that involuntary morning erection is missing, then men are advised to improve their sleep habit.

REGULAR EXERCISE

Without question, a man in good physical health will have a much better sex life. The fitter you are, the better your sex life will be. "A few weeks ago a patient told me that when he goes to the gym regularly, his sex drive is much better, and if he stops, it goes down," noted Paduch.

A structured exercise programme is not only a great way to lose weight and decrease obesity, but it also helps a man to feel better about himself and boost his confidence. Regular exercise also boosts his testosterone, which will rev up his desire.

BALANCED DIET

Lowering cholesterol can help increase a man's testosterone levels, so diet is crucial when it comes to sexual function. Plus, high sugar levels in men with diabetes can affect the function of the nerves in his penis, stated Paduch. Men are advised to change their diet to a more nutritionally balanced one, which will lead to an overall better health, aid in weight management and sugar control, which will get the nerves in the penis going again.

LIMITED ALCOHOL

Surprisingly, a little alcohol can actually help men with ED. One to two drinks a day decrease the risk of cardiovascular problems - a major cause of erectile dysfunction. But don't go overboard, this can lead to the reverse effect. Moderation is the key here. Animal studies have shown that high volumes of alcohol cause the penis to contract, Paduch noted, which is the opposite of what should be going on during sexual arousal.

"Alcohol is a suppressant, and the suppression of the central nervous system will cause a decrease in sensitivity to sexual cues," Paduch said.