by Dr. Myles Spar
I know — I’ve got to be kidding. What do I mean that erectile dysfunction can be a gift?
Allow me to explain. We know that cardiovascular disease is the number-one killer of men in the United States. Well, the “vascular” part of cardiovascular disease means that the cause is really blockage of the arteries around the heart, a process called atherosclerosis. It’s proven that over half of heart attacks occur in men with normal cholesterol. And many times, heart disease develops without warnings, causing sudden cardiac arrest. So any early warning sign can be a life saver — and might compel you to get checked out before the big one hits.
E.D. may just be that early warning sign. Erections depend on blood flow, and blood flow depends on nice, wide-open arteries. Atherosclerosis doesn’t just affect the arteries around your heart; if you have plaque build-up, you are likely to have it all around the arterial system — and the penile artery is one of the smallest arteries you have (no matter what you claim about your size). So if you have atherosclerosis, then the plaque there will be one of the first places where you would notice a decline in blood flow.
Many men experience E.D. According to UW Health, “Mild and moderate erectile dysfunction affects approximately 10 percent of men per decade of life (i.e., 50 percent of men in their 50s, 60 percent of men in their 60s).” And if you think erectile dysfunction is only a problem for older men, think again. As reported by The Greatist, a 2014 study found a quarter of patients newly diagnosed with E.D. were under 40. Of these men, almost half were experiencing severe E.D., meaning they were unable to get or maintain an erection during sex. If this is happening to you, before ordering Viagra online, check in with your primary care practitioner. It could be an early warning sign of atherosclerosis, so it’s worth getting a full evaluation before simply throwing medications at the problem.
Another reason to get checked out is because abnormal hormone levels are a common findings in men with E.D. For example, low testosterone (T) doesn’t directly cause E.D., but low T can cause low libido, which can make it more difficult to get sexually excited and to get and maintain an erection.
Once you get checked out for artery blockage and low T, there are things you can do to help treat ED besides taking medications. Yes, Viagra is now available generically (it’s called sildenafil), but it is still expensive, and many men experience side effects, like heart palpitations or blue-ish vision. Here are a few proven natural ways to help improve E.D.
1. Eat well and exercise
Lifestyle changes like getting more exercise and adjusting your diet can help. In a study of obese men with E.D. who restricted calories for two years and were advised to be more active, participants not only lost weight but also experienced decreased severity of their E.D. Research also shows aerobic exercise can significantly lower your risk of erectile dysfunction thanks to its ability to boost blood flow and circulation. Eating certain foods can also reduce incidence of E.D.
Take oatmeal, for example. This hearty whole grain is a good source of arginine, an amino acid associated with improved improve blood flow to the penis.
2. Try supplements
In addition to getting helpful nutrients from your diet, you can also consider supplementing. Many of these are also on my list of top five supplements to increase sex drive, so they’re helpful for overall sexual health. It’s a good idea to check in with a practitioner, particularly one with knowledge of your individual health issues and medications, before taking anything. Here are some I recommend:
- Ginseng. This root shows promise for treating E.D. In a study where men who had been clinically diagnosed with E.D. were given either 900 milligrams of Korean red ginseng a day or a placebo, those who took ginseng experienced significantly better penetration, rigidity, and erection maintenance compared to the placebo group.
- DHEA. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced in your body’s adrenal gland that aids in the production of testosterone and other hormones. Since testosterone is critical for healthy male sexuality, supplementing with DHEA may help with issues like sluggish libido and impotence. One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found subjects given 50 milligrams of DHEA every day for six months experienced improvement in symptoms of E.D.
- Zinc. This essential trace mineral affects testosterone levels, and zinc deficiency has been linked to hypogonadism (low testosterone). Research suggests supplementing with zinc can help modulate testosterone levels by blocking the conversion of T into estrogen — and it has also been shown to help with sexual competency and E.D.
3. Manage stress
It’s hard to concentrate on what’s happening in the bedroom when you’re thinking about problems at work. For many men, it’s psychological issues like anxiety rather than physical ones that contribute to E.D. Chronic stress has also been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and more. Find a way of blowing off steam that works for you (I like exercise and meditation) and stick to it.
Erectile dysfunction obviously can be frustrating, but it can also be an important warning sign of potential heart disease risk. Once you rule that out, there are natural things you can do to improve it. For more information on how to take control of ED, contact Tack180 for a free consultation. Our experts in nutrition, stress management, behavioral psychology, and fitness go beyond the usual counsel to address your particular vulnerabilities.
(Originally posted on BeWell)