by Maggie Parker
Erectile dysfunction isn’t only treated with a little blue pill. In fact, there are several modifiable factors—like weight, alcohol intake, and physical activity—that can help improve erectile function, too, according to a new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
In this longitudinal study, researchers analyzed 765 men between the ages of 35 and 80 in Australia, with the majority of the men on the older end of the spectrum. The researchers used a questionnaire to collect data on their sexual desire, sexual activity, and sexual preferences. Then they assessed the men’s erectile function using another questionnaire. The participants were also asked about their overall health—things like weight, alcohol intake, physical activity, depression, and sleep. When they followed up with these men after five years, they found that the guys whose habits and health improved over time tended to see an improvement in sexual function.
And although this study mostly looked at older men, erectile issues commonly occur in younger men, too, says Darius Paduch, M.D., urologist and male sexual medicine specialist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He has plenty of patients in their thirties and forties, “and with them, I suggest they make changes in their lifestyles,” says Paduch. He warns that sexual dysfunction in men is often caused by something that is also life threatening—namely, cardiovascular problems. “I’ve seen patient’s sexual function improve with healthy lifestyle changes and consistent healthy habits,” says Paduch. “These men are often able to go off of medication without seeing a decrease in their sexual function.”
Here, five modifiable factors that can improve a guy’s erections without a prescription:
Maintaining a healthy BMI may help your guy get his mojo back. Men who are obese have much lower testosterone levels, “which obviously plays a major part in sexual function,” says Paduch. For that reason, he first suggests men change their diets and lose weight when they are having erectile issues.
If you notice your man’s morning wood has gone MIA, it might be because of his sleep patterns. “When I see a patient with ED, I ask his partner if he snores. If they say yes, I have him evaluated for sleep apnea,” says Paduch. This is because sleep apnea will interrupt your sleep cycle, affecting the normal cycles of erections that happen during the night. Of course, sleep deprivation affects sex drive as well so Paduch urges his patients to get enough shuteye each night.
You know that fit women have much better sex, but the same is true for guys. “A few weeks ago a patient told me that when he goes to the gym regularly, his sex drive is much better and if he stops, it goes down,” recalls Paduch. Of course, physical activity is a great way to lose weight and decrease obesity, but it also helps a guy feel better about himself, making him feel even more confident with his clothes off. Plus, a great sweat session will boost his testosterone, which can help rev up his desire.
You might want to skip the latest comfort food joint on date night in favor of these better-sex foods. Lowering cholesterol can help increase a man’s testosterone levels, so diet is crucial when it comes to sexual function. Plus, high sugar levels in men with diabetes can affection the function of the nerves in his penis, says Paduch. In these cases, simply losing weight can help with sugar control and get the signals to these nerves going again.
Surprisingly, a little alcohol can actually help men with ED. One to two drinks a day decreases the risk of cardiovascular problems—a major cause of ED. However, don’t let him go overboard. Animal studies have shown that high volumes of alcohol caused the penis to contract, says Paduch, which is the opposite of what should be going on during sexual arousal (but, you knew that already). “Alcohol is a suppressant, and the suppression of the central nervous system will cause a decrease in sensitivity to sexual cues,” Paduch adds.