Erectile troubles are common. Some men have erectile dysfunction, while others have occasional difficulties in achieving a strong, durable erection. These problems have a major impact on a man’s confidence and self-esteem. The good thing is – they’re manageable.
You can ward off erectile troubles easily. All you need to do is to make simple lifestyle adjustments. This post is going to list 11 practical and effective ways to avoid or get rid of erectile difficulties. Read on to see how to keep an erection.
1) Manage weight
According to the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about three in four men (73.7%) in the United States are overweight or obese. Excess weight harms a person’s health in many ways. Being overweight or obese can harm your erections, too.
Overweight or obese men are at a higher risk of developing:
- High cholesterol
- Heart disease
All these conditions lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) on their own. But, when they are combined with excess weight, the erectile difficulties become more severe.
Why is excess weight linked with erection problems?
Several mechanisms are involved in the relationship between the two. Overweight or obesity affects hormone levels, increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, and contributes to negative body image. All these things have an impact on erectile function. Remember, problems with erections can occur primarily due to physiological reasons but psychological factors as well. Physiological reasons are usually down to the obstructed blood flow, which happens a lot with cardiovascular problems.
In one study, 30% of men who took part in a weight loss program regained normal sexual function. On the flip side, only 5% of men from the control group achieved the same result. Basically, to lose erectile problems, you need to lose weight. Weight loss reduces oxidative stress, inflammatory markers, improves mental health and hormone levels, and increases self-esteem.
Therefore, when you’re trying to ward off erection troubles, the first thing you need to do is to slim down. Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight, but you can achieve it with strong willpower and lifestyle changes. You will notice improvements in your erections.
A sedentary lifestyle is prevalent today but not the healthiest option for your health. Lack of physical activity leads to weight gain and problems associated with it. All these problems contribute to erection-related problems. What’s more, a sedentary lifestyle is an independent risk of ED. Meaning, regardless of the BMI and other problems, being inactive can jeopardize your erections.
Therefore, an important strategy to prevent or tackle erection troubles is to increase physical activity levels and exercise more.
A study from The Journal of Sexual Medicine measured physical activity level on sexual function in 78 men ages 18 and 40. They found the sedentary lifestyle was associated with increased dysfunction in the following domains:
- Erectile function
- Orgasm function
- Intercourse satisfaction
- Overall satisfaction
Scientists concluded the study explaining physical activity improves sexual function in men.
Exercise improves erectile function through several mechanisms:
- Strengthening pelvic floor muscles
- Improving blood flow to the erectile tissue
- Building endurance and stamina
- Improving testosterone
- Supporting weight loss and muscle building
Regular exercise should go hand in hand with a well-balanced diet. Options are numerous. You can do Kegel exercises for men, as well. These pelvic floor muscle exercises also strengthen the bulbocavernosus muscle. This muscle allows the penis to engorge with blood during erection, pumps during ejaculation, and helps empty the urethra after urination.
Kegels are also helpful for men with prostate problems, especially those who have undergone radical prostatectomy. They can help control urine flow.
Your workout routine should include cardio and strength training. The best thing to do is to perform these workouts on alternating days. Strive to exercise for about 30 to 45 minutes every day and make sure you have rest days.
3) Mediterranean diet
Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean sea. It is not a fad diet or some program to follow for a week or two. The Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle. The best thing about this eating pattern is its versatility. This diet doesn’t advocate eliminating certain food groups or consuming specific foods only. The Mediterranean diet relies on olive oil, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, fish, and seafood. Meat is permitted, but you should consume it occasionally.
A growing body of evidence confirms Mediterranean diet reduces the prevalence of ED, even in men with metabolic syndrome. In men with diabetes, the Mediterranean diet can delay the deterioration of sexual activity and positively influence the inflammatory components. The Mediterranean diet benefits on erectile function stem from its positive influence on lipid and glucose metabolism and increased antioxidant defenses. Moreover, the Mediterranean diet increases levels of amino acid l-arginine in the body. L-arginine is necessary for the production of nitric oxide. As a vasodilator, nitric oxide dilates blood vessels and improves blood flow to the genital area so that you can get an erection.
For men who want to prevent erectile difficulties or improve the quality of erections, the Mediterranean diet is a great choice. How to start with this diet? These tips can help you out:
- Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Eat more whole grains
- Increase intake of seafood
- Use healthy fats such as olive oil
- Have some dairy
- Add herbs and spices to your diet
- Reduce (no need to entirely avoid) red meat intake
4) Lower blood pressure
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is an enemy of strong and hard erections. Why? High blood pressure damages the arteries. As a result, the arteries become narrow and less flexible. Hypertension increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and events such as heart attack and stroke. However, this condition can also limit the blood that circulates to the penis. Remember, erection requires proper blood flow through the arteries to fill penile chambers. Left untreated, high blood pressure can either lead to erectile difficulties or aggravate the current problem.
Since men with hypertension are twice as likely to have impaired penile blood flow and ED compared to men with normal blood pressure, it is important to be proactive about this problem. First, you need to see the doctor regularly. Even more so, if you are in a high-risk group of developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems, the doctor will recommend an adequate way to manage it if you have hypertension. Following the doctor’s instructions is crucial. Make sure to inform the doctor about erectile problems. This information will help the doctor recommend an adequate approach for managing hypertension since some medications may contribute to weak erections.
Management of high blood pressure also requires a healthy lifestyle. Eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. You should also strive to reduce stress. With a little bit of effort, you can solve this sexual problem and achieve a harder erection.
Studies show a high level of total cholesterol and a low level of HDL (good) cholesterol are important risk factors for ED. High cholesterol levels affect heart health. Everything bad for the heart is also harmful to your penis.
You see, the most common cause of ED is atherosclerosis, narrowing of the blood vessels. Many things contribute to atherosclerosis, including high cholesterol levels. Why? High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol can cause the accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries. As a result, the plaque forms, and blood vessels become narrow.
The message is clear – you need to maintain healthy cholesterol levels to improve your erections. Narrow blood vessels obstruct blood flow to the penis, and you experience erectile difficulties.
One way to maintain cholesterol levels in a healthy range is through the Mediterranean diet. You should also exercise regularly, avoid trans fats, quit smoking, slim down, and avoid alcohol.
6) Quit smoking
Men are more likely to smoke and use tobacco products than women. For example, in 2015, about 16.7% of adult males and 13.6% of adult females were cigarette smokers. Various factors play a role in these gender differences. Besides environmental factors, physiological reasons are involved. For instance, smoking activates men’s reward pathways more than women’s.
Smoking worsens erectile function through vascular mechanisms. You see, smoking impairs the level of nitric oxide in corpora cavernosa. Nitric oxide is necessary for erectile response. As levels of NO decrease, the blood vessels narrow and obstruct blood flow to the penile area.
Even though smoking is a major contributor to weak erections, you’re not helpless. Smoking cessation can improve erectile response. Sure, it may seem quitting smoking is a mission impossible. It’s not! Smoking cessation is an achievable goal. You will need support and an adequate approach to make it happen. The best thing you can do is to consult your doctor or join support groups and programs dedicated to people like you. It’s always practical to connect with people who are in the same situation. You can offer support and share experiences to reach the desired goal – tobacco-free life. The quality of your erections will improve.
7) Cut back on alcohol
One of the most important things you can do to ward off erection troubles is to cut back on alcohol. Sexual dysfunction is common in men who drink alcohol, especially with heavy consumption. Alcohol intake may lead to erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and low sexual desire.
Alcohol impairs erectile response through several mechanisms:
- Reduced blood flow to the penis
- Increased angiotensin, a hormone linked to ED
- Depressed central nervous system
It’s also useful to mention alcohol can contribute to premature ejaculation, negatively affect testosterone, and make you more prone to risky sexual behavior. In fact, heavy and chronic alcohol consumption can induce long-term damage with erectile response.
To preserve or improve the quality of the erections, it’s important to cut back on alcohol. Moderate consumption is okay. Ideally, you should avoid alcohol entirely. But if you simply don’t want to do so, then keeping intake at a moderate level could be enough to improve your erections.
8) Manage stress
While stress is a natural body response to negative stimuli, it can harm our physical and psychological health if we don’t manage it properly. Unmanaged stress can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of many health problems.
Stress involves high levels of the hormone cortisol. This particular hormone doesn’t get along with testosterone. These two hormones act in a seesaw manner. High cortisol lowers testosterone and vice versa. In other words, long-term and unmanaged stress can contribute to ED by lowering testosterone levels.
At the same time, stress (and anxiety) can impair erectile response by interrupting how the brain sends messages to the penis to allow extra blood flow. Stress can also occur due to relationship problems, and other life issues, and psychological causes that lower sex drive and prevent you from achieving an erection. Performance anxiety is also a common problem that leads to ED, ejaculation problems, and increased stress.
The good thing is that you can manage stress successfully (and improve your erections). You may find these tips useful:
- Get enough sleep
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Avoid triggers that worsen stress
- Discover the root cause of stress and strive to solve it
9) Treat sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder wherein breathing repeatedly stops and starts. There are several types of this potentially serious disorder, but obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. The other two types are central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea syndrome.
This sleep disorder occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. These muscles support your soft palate, uvula, tonsils, tongue, and sidewalls of the throat. Upon relaxation of the muscles, the airway closes or narrows as you inhale. As a result, you don’t get enough air, and the blood’s oxygen level decreases. When the brain detects the inability to sleep, it wakes you up to reopen your airways. In most cases, this awakening is brief, and most people don’t even notice it.
Sleep apnea can affect a man’s quality of life. What most people don’t know is that it can also affect erections. A study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine found 69% of subjects with OSA also had impotence i.e., erectile dysfunction.
The exact reason why sleep apnea may contribute to ED is still unknown. A common theory is that sleep apnea leads to sleep deprivation. Then, lack of sleep decreases testosterone levels. Sleep apnea may restrict oxygen too. You need both testosterone and oxygen for strong erections.
If you have sleep apnea, you need to be proactive and manage this condition. Sleep apnea management is necessary to avoid complications associated with this condition but also to improve your erections.
Treatment options for sleep apnea include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), tissue removal surgery, using additional oxygen, treating underlying problems. For example, overweight and obesity are major risk factors for sleep apnea. Weight loss can aid the management of this sleep disorder.
10) Be aware of medication side effects
When you’re trying to improve erectile function, it’s useful to keep in mind some medications can cause ED. While some drugs can treat the condition for which they are prescribed, they can have side effects, including impaired erectile function. These medications include:
- Diuretics and high blood pressure drugs
- Antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and antiepileptic drugs
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Parkinson’s disease medication
- Muscle relaxants
- Prostate cancer medications
- Chemotherapy drugs
If you’re taking some of these medications, you shouldn’t stop using them on your own. You need to consult the doctor, express concerns regarding erections, and follow their advice. The doctor may prescribe different medications or change the dosage. That way, you would manage underlying health conditions such as vascular disease and experience prolonged erection (i.e., longer than usual).
When discussing medications, it’s also useful to mention ED medication. Many men consider taking pills for erections to improve their sexual intercourse. While they’re helpful, you need to keep in mind they also have side effects. These adverse reactions include headache, body aches, digestive problems, congestion, among others. A common misconception is that these medications can lead to delayed ejaculation. Doctors do not prescribe these medications for ejaculation problems.
11) Monitor testosterone levels
Testosterone regulates a man’s sex drive, fat distribution, bone mass, muscle mass and strength, production of sperm and red blood cells. In a nutshell, testosterone is crucial for your health and wellbeing. This hormone is also important for erectile function. The primary physiological action of testosterone in the male sexual response is to regulate the timing of the erectile process as a function of sexual desire. Basically, it coordinates penile erection with sex.
Aging and an unhealthy lifestyle reduce levels of testosterone. Low testosterone decreases libido and also impairs ejaculation and erection in men. Long story short, you need to tackle low testosterone levels to achieve optimal sexual performance. For that reason, you need to monitor testosterone levels. Hormone therapy is a common approach for this problem. But you’re probably wondering if there’s any other way to manage it. It’s possible to improve your testosterone naturally. These tips can help you:
- Lose weight
- Exercise regularly and lift weights
- Manage stress
- Eat protein, healthy fats, and carbs (healthy)
- Get some sun
- Take vitamin D
- Take vitamin and mineral supplements
- Get enough sleep
- Try taking natural testosterone boosters
- Avoid estrogen-like compounds such as BPA
Throughout this post, we’ve discussed 11 easy yet effective ways to ward off erection troubles. As you can see, simple lifestyle adjustments are enough to improve the quality of your erections. Make useful changes in your lifestyle to take your sex life to a whole new level. However, if the lifestyle modifications fail to improve erection quality, a penile implant should be considered.