Erectile dysfunction or impotence has been a significant problem in men in all the eras.
For centuries, the conditions have been associated with considerable embarrassment for men. In many cultures, discussing the issue has been almost taboo.
In fact, till the mid-20th century, very few men accepted that they had the problem.
However, since then, things have changed a lot.
The problem is quite common in older men but is not rare even in young men.
After the age of 40, a significant number of men start experiencing a decline in erectile function1.
However, in recent years science has begun giving more attention to the condition. This is because science now understands that erectile dysfunction may be the primary sign of worsening health and certain chronic disorders.
For example, those living with erectile dysfunction (ED) are at a greater risk of all-cause mortality, untimely death due to heart disease, developing prostate diseases, and more. Thus, a harder erection also suggests better physical health.
In recent years, treatment of ED has improved a lot. In addition, there are many ways to prevent and manage the condition, from the use of medications to lifestyle interventions. So, if the erection is not as firm as expected, there are ways to make things better.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is not just the inability to achieve an erection for sexual penetration. It also means that the erection is not firm enough for satisfactory sex. Thus, many men can achieve a hard erection, but they have an issue maintaining it.
Causes of ED could be many, from psychological to physical ailments. For some, it is due to hormonal issues, while for others, it is more due to vascular diseases.
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Causes & risk factors of erectile dysfunction
Here it is vital to see erectile dysfunction as a broader disorder. There could be many reasons for the condition, from psychological to physical ailments.
Psychological factors are generally more common among young adults. These factors could be stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. For many, even the pressure of sexual performance is enough to cause ED.
However, as men grow older, physical health issues like heart disease, vascular conditions, blood pressure, high cholesterol, excessive body weight, metabolic syndrome, diet, and other issues become the prime cause of the problem.
ED is especially more common among obese individuals, those living with diabetes, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and so on.
Alcohol abuse, tobacco smoking, and substance abuse are some of the common preventable causes of ED.
How to prevent erectile dysfunction
Individuals experiencing ED often ask various questions like how can I get a better erection? What can I do to make the penis strong? How can I improve my erectile dysfunction? And how can I maintain an erection for longer periods?
Of course, erectile dysfunction prevention is better than erectile dysfunction treatment. Many lifestyle interventions can help get a harder erection for longer. Below are some ways to get and maintain an erection.
1. Quit smoking
Most people do not realize that erectile dysfunction is primarily due to vascular dysfunction rather than low testosterone. Studies show that tobacco smoking or nicotine is among the leading causes of peripheral vascular disease.
It means that those who smoke have poor blood vessels, low vascular elasticity, and reduced endothelial NO production. Consequently, regular smoking leads to erectile dysfunction.
2. Reduce alcohol intake
Small amounts of alcohol may not affect sexual function much. However, high alcohol consumption is among the leading causes of ED and low libido. Regretfully, one-fourth of adults in the US tend to abuse alcohol.
Thus, high alcohol consumption is among the leading causes of ED. Not only that, but it may also lead to premature ejaculation and reduced sexual desire. However, reducing alcohol intake may help revive sexual function in most and help get a harder erection.
This means cutting down alcohol intake may significantly improve sexual health in many cases, if not in all cases.
3. Make dietary changes
Dietary imbalances affect metabolic health, mood, and brain health, and adversely impact sexual life. Thus, start consuming low salt foods and focus on healthy fats. Avoid eating too many saturated fats. Additionally, increase the intake of dietary fiber.
You should also increase your consumption of vegetables, fruits, and lean meat while reducing the intake of processed foods.
4. Maintain a healthy body weight
New studies show that obesity is a greater risk factor for erectile dysfunction than aging. Moreover, obesity is an independent risk factor for ED.
This means that an obese person, even in the absence of other health issues, is quite likely to suffer from poor arousal and low erection quality.
Studies show that almost 80% of men presenting with ED are obese. A BMI of 30 or above is associated with 3 times increased risk of ED.
Fortunately, even small steps taken can help significantly. Thus, even reducing 5-7% of your body weight may help considerably reduce the risk of ED. Not only that, but it may also help reduce the risk of various other physical disorders.
5. Prevent diabetes
More than 10% of men in urban areas are living with diabetes. Diabetes is now among the leading causes of ED. Diabetes is a very complex condition, and it may lead to poor erection due to many reasons.
High blood sugar is associated with an increased risk of vascular diseases and thus poor blood supply to the penis or cavernous tissues. Similarly, diabetes may increase the risk of peripheral nerves, thus reducing erection quality.
Diabetes is also associated with hormonal changes. For example, it often causes low testosterone levels and changes in the level of many other hormones.
Not only that, diabetes considerably increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and other health issues. All this may ultimately contribute to poor sexual health. Additionally, diabetes also means high systemic inflammation.
Thus, preventing diabetes can also help prevent ED. In addition, if a person is living with diabetes, maintaining healthy blood glucose levels may considerably lower the risk of ED.
6. Prevent high blood pressure
As already mentioned, people need to understand that ED is more of a vascular disease than a hormonal condition. So, it means that maintaining a healthy heart and good blood pressure can also help get a firm erection.
There are many ways of regulating blood pressure, but perhaps the number one way is to reduce the total salt intake.
Additionally, stress management and physical activity may also help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and thus maintain a firm erection.
7. Stay physically active
There is a saying that a sedentary lifestyle is a new kind of smoking. Studies suggest that a sedentary lifestyle is now among the leading cause of various disorders.
Staying physically active has many benefits. It helps prevent obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, mood issues, stress, etc.
Thus, even 30 minutes of exercise a week can boost erectile function. Not only that, but one should also try to remain active throughout the day.
This means taking frequent breaks during the day if work includes sitting in front of a screen for long hours. It may mean using stairs instead of a lift, going to work on a bike, etc. Thus, it is not just about exercise, but it is about staying active most of the time.
8. Practice mindfulness
Stress is almost unavoidable but manageable. Unfortunately, modern life is full of stress due to issues at the job, the inability to meet various needs, and more.
It appears that chronic stress is particularly bad for sexual health. It causes an increase in cortisol levels and changes in hormones and may negatively influence metabolism.
One of the ways to normalize mood is through the regular practice of mindfulness. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, from yoga to tai chi and other techniques, and most work equally well.
9. Avoid illegal drugs
There are tens of illegal drugs commonly abused by people, especially in developed nations. Many of these drugs are synthetic and quite bad for physical, mental, and sexual health.
Hence, one should completely avoid using illegal drugs as they may cause ED in many ways like interfering with arousal, influencing vascular health, and more.
Just take an example of opioids. Most of them suppress various brain centers and directly reduce arousal and erection quality.
The same is true for various sedatives. In addition, stimulants like amphetamines, and cocaine, also cause erectile dysfunction during prolonged abuse.
10. Consider herbal supplements
Lifestyle interventions are essential for improving erectile function. However, it may not be realistic to carry out those interventions in many cases. For example, it may be due to lack of time or certain health conditions, and so on.
Thus, considering health supplements is an excellent way of preventing erectile dysfunction. There are innumerable options when it comes to herbal supplements.
And, it is generally a good idea to use something that combines multiple herbs like saw palmetto, horny goat weed, ginseng, Tribulus Terrestris, and more.
Additionally, also look for supplements with added antioxidants and vitamins. Thus, a good supplement will have not only herbal extracts but also vitamins, minerals, and natural antioxidants. Such a kind of supplement would have many health benefits.
A harder erection is an indicator of sound physical health. Thus, one needs to understand that ED does not occur in isolation.
Most people living with ED would have other health issues. Therefore, to prevent erectile dysfunction, one should focus on making broader lifestyle changes and using some specific remedies for the condition.
Here it is essential to understand that improving ED quality through lifestyle measures will also help improve physical and mental health. Thus, it will improve sex life and even prolong life. Therefore, any measures taken to enhance erection quality would boost the quality of life.