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An erection seems to happen on instinct, but the process of getting one is actually quite complicated. It involves your heart, head, hormones, blood vessels, nerves, and even your mood. Even though erectile dysfunction (ED) is largely caused by inadequate blood flow, a wide spectrum of physical and mental health factors can influence that blood flow. The good news: There’s a lot you can do to improve your overall health, leading to stronger erections, without medication.
- An erection is a complicated thing requiring several body systems to work together.
- A number of physical and mental health problems can contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED), including a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and stress.
- The upside is, there’s a lot you can do to improve your overall health that also may give you better erections.
- If lifestyle changes don’t improve your ED, medications are highly effective.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED), previously referred to as impotence, happens when you can’t get or keep an erection sufficient enough for a satisfying sex life. That might include erections that don’t last as long as you want or aren’t as firm as you’d like. These issues with erectile function may affect your sexual desire in addition to your ability to have sex.
Common treatments for ED
Oral medications for ED are highly effective. Several are available, including sildenafil (brand name Viagra), tadalafil (brand name Cialis), and vardenafil (brand name Levitra). These medications work by blocking PDE5, a chemical that encourages blood to flow out of an erect penis.
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Natural ways to protect your erection
How to get stronger erections with exercise
On average, your heart beats 100,000 times a day and pumps more than 2,000 gallons of blood throughout your body. That’s enough blood to fill an Olympic pool every year. Your heart is incredibly strong, but you need to take care of this vital muscle. Exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen your heart and your erections. It also increases stamina, strength, and flexibility.
How to get a stronger erection with diet
Several studies, like the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, have linked a healthy diet to reduced risk for ED (Feldman, 1994). A good diet also helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity (both risk factors for ED). The goal is to increase your fruits, veggies, and grains and reduce your intake of processed foods, sugars, and red meat. Even a small decrease in body fat can improve erectile dysfunction (among many other things).
Sex Tip: It helps if you avoid large meals before having sex. Erections are mostly about blood flow. Eating a big meal diverts blood toward digesting your food and away from an erection. It’s also a good idea to avoid large meals, even when you’re taking ED meds. A fatty meal can block the absorption of the medication, making it less effective.
How to get stronger erections with sleep
Lack of sleep can increase your risk of heart attack, slow your metabolism, weaken your immune system, and cause erectile dysfunction. Sleep deprivation and even sleep apnea can lower testosterone levels. And a dip in testosterone can lower your libido, making it harder to diagnose ED. Life is hectic. But getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night is one of the best things you can do for your health.
How to get stronger erections: avoid alcohol and cigarettes
Erectile dysfunction is common in men who smoke at least 10 cigarettes a day or drink more than three alcoholic drinks a day. Smoking damages your blood vessels, which are a big part of getting an erection. In fact, men who smoke are twice as likely to experience ED as non-smokers (Tostes, 2008). The good news is that quitting smoking can improve your health (and your erection) almost immediately.
In the short term, alcohol relaxes the soft muscle tissues in the penis. This stops blood vessels from closing and trapping enough blood to get an erection. In the long run, excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage, high blood pressure, and damage to blood vessels resulting in erectile dysfunction. Alcohol is also a nervous system depressant that can block messages between the brain and the body.
Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol
High blood pressure can damage the lining of arteries, and high blood cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaque on blood vessel walls. Both can impede blood flow and compromise your erections.
So much of sex is mental, and stress or anxiety can take your head out of the game, resulting in less-than-stellar erections.
Try an herbal supplement
Some men have found natural remedies for ED to be effective. Some studies have shown that certain supplements, (such as DHEA, ginseng, L-arginine, L-carnitine, and yohimbe), may be helpful. Read more about natural remedies for ED here.
Increase communication with your partner
The foundation of good sex is communication, and if you’re feeling disconnected from your partner or you’re not sure if you’re satisfying them sexually, that can diminish the pleasure you get out of your sexual experiences and even contribute to ED. Making an effort to stay on the same wavelength in and out of the bedroom can only enhance your sex life and lead to better erections.
Mix up your sexual routine
Humans crave sexual novelty and variety, even if they’re satisfied with having just one partner. Mixing things up by trying new positions, scenarios, toys and verbal cues can help ensure that sex stays exciting and doesn’t lapse into sameness.
Bottom line: Reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking will improve your overall health and sexual performance.
Monitor testosterone levels
In some cases, a low testosterone level can contribute to reduced sexual desire and ED. Consult a healthcare provider if you think you might have low T; several treatment options are available. (Just avoid self-medicating with anabolic steroids, which can contribute to ED.)
The secret to a stronger erection without ED medication
ED medications work better if men make all the changes that lead to improved health. It’s that simple. Eat better, exercise regularly, sleep more, and avoid alcohol and cigarettes and you’re likely to get stronger, more frequent erections—even without ED medication.