6 Ways to Live Well with Erectile Dysfunction

6 Ways to Live Well with Erectile Dysfunction

If you’re among the 30 million men in the U.S. living with erectile dysfunction (ED)—the repeated inability to maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse—there are many nondrug measures that may help improve symptoms and restore sexual health. They’re worth exploring before turning to medications such as sildenafil (Viagra).

Use these self-help steps

Some simple strategies can help you restore your sexual potency, especially if your problem is only intermittent. Keep alcohol consumption moderate or low (two drinks a day or less), as alcohol acts as a depressant and slows sexual response. Quit smoking, as it’s known to increase the risk of ED. Rule out underlying problems, such as high blood pressure or elevated blood cholesterol. Exercise regularly (e.g. 30 to 60 minutes a day).

Take care of your heart

Improving cardiovascular health has the added benefit of improving sexual health. A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, for example, found erectile function scores were 24 percent better in men taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Conversely, a study in JAMA found that men with high blood pressure and those with diabetes had a high incidence of ED. Improved heart health is a win-win situation, since it not only reduces your chances of a heart attack but can improve the blood flow that’s essential to erections. 

Enjoy your coffee

In a large observational study, men who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were forty percent less likely to report ED. However, higher intake of coffee was not associated with greater benefit. Researchers believe coffee has chemical properties that lead to relaxation of the arteries and smooth muscles in the penis, which can increase blood flow.

Think twice about testosterone

Testosterone replacement therapy is approved by the FDA only for men who have very low blood testosterone levels accompanied by undesirable effects, such as ED. Yet it’s prescribed off label four times as often than a decade ago, due in part to drug companies’ claims of improved vigor, muscle mass, and erections from treating “Low T.” The FDA is now requiring drug companies to conduct large, long-term randomized trials of testosterone therapy, as the jury is still out on its safety and efficacy.

Don’t count on herbs or other supplements

Their side effects are often unknown and their ingredients may interfere with existing medication, especially in older men. What’s more, there’s scant evidence they do anything to help. Some common ingredients in performance-enhancing products, like arginine and yohimbe, have little or mixed evidence; two others, DHEA and the herb Tribulus terrestris, may have serious long-term adverse effects (and no clear evidence that they work). Bottom line: Steer clear.

Stay optimistic

Sex gets better with age. A 2015 Swedish study found that the majority of people over 70 say they are highly satisfied with their sex lives, and that satisfaction increases over time. If you find that your or your partner’s sexual desire has waned, there are steps you both can take to restore sexual intimacy, such as managing stress, experimenting with new positions, and talking openly.

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