We know that the penis is a complex organ. Even a cursory read of Numan’s Book Of Erections will tell you that. But are there ways you keep your penis healthy and less prone to erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common amongst men, impacting half of men between the ages of 40-70. The good news is that there are numerous proven and effective ways to treat ED without the need to resort to anything too left field. From getting your blood pumping to using a meditative app, small daily lifestyle changes can help make your erections more reliable.
For an erection to happen, three key systems need to be in good working order: the nervous, cardiovascular, and the structures within the penis itself. Then there’s a whole host of finely balanced reactions and signals all helping you get and maintain an erection when (hopefully) you want one most.
Luckily, keeping your penis in good health is a lot less complex than its inner workings. Here are five proven things you can do for a fully-functioning penis and more reliable erections.
1. Think general fitness, not just Kegels
There’s no shortage of online advice about improving your erectile function, and kegel or pelvic floor exercise is one that pops up repeatedly. The problem? Despite some studies showing a benefit, the research is limited.
What undoubtedly will improve erectile reliability, especially as you get older, is cardiovascular exercise. Any regular activity that gets your blood pumping and works up a sweat will help in keeping your heart healthy and blood flowing to your penis, both of which are essential for erectile health. Fortunately, sex is one such activity.
2. Go easy on the pornography
The immediacy and sheer quantity of online porn is believed to be a significant driver behind the increase in erectile dysfunction amongst young men. You can use porn without any ill effects, but if that changes and porn begins to impact your sex life and wellbeing, it’s best to act early.
“If you told yourself you were only going to look at porn for half an hour and it’s three hours later, or you’re looking at material that wouldn’t normally appeal to you, those are some early signs,” says Paula Haul, sexual & relationship psychotherapist and founder of the Laurel Centre.
“If you keep elevating the arousal threshold then your body needs more stimuli in order to get the same reaction. That can mean taking longer to ejaculate, then longer to get an erection, then you stop being able to get an erection at all.”
3. Download a calming app
For an erection to happen there needs to be two things going on in your head: arousal and relaxation. Anything else creeping in, such as anxiety about how your body looks or the fear of ED occurring, can lead to erectile issues.
It’s all down to the parasympathetic side of your nervous system; the part that helps bring about your erection and keep it there, this is only activated when you’re sufficiently relaxed.
If that’s something that’s easier said than done (and it is for an increasing number of us) then start with simple steps: downloading a meditation app such as Headspace or Calm, both of which allow you to practise mindfulness no matter how busy your life is.
4. Eat your five a day
While being malnourished can cause ED, it’s highly unusual in the UK. A much more common and significant risk comes from having a diet high in foods you ideally shouldn’t eat, at least not regularly.
Consuming excessive saturated fat and processed foods can lead to higher cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes. All of which can give rise to chronic forms of ED.
The best bet: eat more fruit and veg - it’s believed some particular fruits and vegetables may play a role in helping remove cell-damaging free radicals in the blood; the molecules that cause dangerous fatty plaque to build up in your body, your penis included.
5. Ditch that extra beer
Drinking, drugs, smoking, and rock and roll. Only the last one is safe to do regularly, and won’t potentially jeopardise your ability to get and maintain an erection.
Alcohol causes your blood pressure to drop which can result in insufficient blood flow to the penis, leaving you struggling to keep your erection hard enough for penetrative sex, or to get one in the first place. Long-term alcohol abuse can cause permanent erectile problems, as can many other recreational drugs.
Stick with the hard science
If you search long and hard enough online you’ll find plenty of studies suggesting different ways to treat ED, from an extra cup of coffee to subliminal messages embedded in trance music. While some of these raise interesting questions and the need for more research, they can often be tiny studies with limited data, or worse, can have no scientific underpinning at all.
It is worth remembering that there are many proven and effective ways to treat ED, be that lifestyle changes, counselling or medication such as sildenafil or tadalafil, without the need to resort to anything too left field.
The bottom line
The causes of ED can be complex and are often a mixture of physiological and psychological factors. Thankfully treating the symptoms is not as complicated, especially when it comes to making lifestyle changes that can improve erectile health. Think one less beer, a little more exercise, and ignoring the weirder stuff you read online.
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