Maintaining good health by following a healthful lifestyle, and managing medical conditions before they cause irreversible damage, is the key to getting a solid erection and maintaining throughout life.
Medications are helpful for most men with ED but the best long-term approach is to manage the causes of ED and not simply to treat the symptoms.
First, let’s understand how someone gets an erection. An erection occurs when someone is stimulated by an erotic thought or sexual contact. The brain then produces nitric oxide. A series of chemical reactions in the blood vessels of the penis follows that results in 6 times the blood flow to the penis. An erection might last indefinitely if it weren’t for chemicals in the body called phosphodiesterases. They work at reversing the process trying to return the penis to being flaccid. Usually there is a balance between the chemicals that results in an erection lasting for as long as it is needed, which allows the phosphodiesterases to do their job when they should and no sooner.
Men with erectile dysfunction benefit from having the chemicals leading to the erection outweigh the actions of the phosphodiesterases that cause the penis to lose its firmness. That is what the medications for erectile dysfunction do; they block, or inhibit, the phosphodiesterases and let the forces giving a man an erection rule.
The result is a firmer erection that lasts longer.
But what can people do to keep the quality erections they have or regain some of what may have been lost?
One of the simplest and most underrated interventions people can make is to alter their lifestyle.
So many things have to go right for you to achieve a strong erection. For starters, your hormones must be released on demand, your arteries need to carry blood to the penis with perfect efficiency, your nervous system must transmit its signals without a hitch, and your mind must be working in perfect harmony with your body. That’s a lot to ask.
Exercise is the best way to strengthen your heart (and your erection). It increases stamina, strength, and flexibility.
The average heart beats 100,000 times, pumping about 2,000 gallons of blood throughout your body per day. Your heart pumps enough blood to fill an Olympic pool each year for your entire life.
For blood to fill the penis to its capacity (i.e., achieve a firm erection), it requires approximately 6 times its normal flow. Basically, the stronger your heart is, and the cleaner your arteries are, the more blood you can pump with each beat for a longer period of time and with less effort.
But where should you start? Just walk! An underrated form of exercise is walking. Walking uses almost every bone and muscle in your body. A great, and achievable, daily goal is 10,000 steps per day.
Obesity is a primary risk factor for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, certain cancers, gallstones, degenerative arthritis, and erectile dysfunction.
Excess belly fat can interfere with the body’s ability to send enough blood to the penis. It can also cause testosterone production to decrease.
When you’re aroused nitric oxide is released from the endothelial cells in the penis, which causes the muscles to relax, which enables blood to flow. Obesity damages the endothelium, which prevents the penis from receiving sufficient blood flow for sustained periods of time.
A small decrease in body fat improves erectile dysfunction (among many other things).
Erectile dysfunction is extremely common in those who consume more than 3 drinks daily or in those who smoke at least 10 cigarettes per day.
Men who smoke are twice as likely to experience ED as non-smokers. Smoking damages your blood vessels. Even if your nervous system is functioning well, getting an erection still might be difficult if your blood vessels are damaged by smoking. However, quitting can improve your health immediately: your chance of a cardiac event decreases, your blood pressure improves, and your circulation improves within 2-12 weeks, which is incredibly helpful in preventing ED.
Alcohol is a nervous system depressant and can block messages between the brain and the body.
In the short term, alcohol relaxes the muscles in the penis enabling blood to flow in, but it also prevents those blood vessels from closing and trapping all that blood in the penis. In the long run, excessive alcohol consumption causes scarring in the liver, high blood pressure, and damages blood vessels (causing ED).
Reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking will improve your overall health and sexual performance; you know this.
The value of sleep cannot be overstated. A lack of sleep increases your risk for a cardiac event, slows your metabolism, weakens your immune system, and diminishes cognitive abilities. It can also decrease your testosterone, which increases the likelihood of experiencing ED. Worse yet, a decrease in testosterone will most likely decrease your libido so your diminished sexual function may be less noticeable.
Unchecked stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Being in a high stress environment can affect the way your brain sends messages to your body, which can affect blood flow and your ability to achieve and maintain an erection.
There are many potential causes for stress induced ED (e.g., nervousness and anxiety, professional stress, loss of a loved one, changes in health, and financial burden).
It’s important for your overall (and sexual) health to manage your stress.
In conclusion, by staying physically and mentally healthy you can go a long way toward maintaining your sexual health.