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Erections are surprisingly complicated. Your head, heart, hormones, blood vessels, and so much more have to work together perfectly to pull off this crazy thing we call an erection—so don’t be bummed if things don’t always go as planned. It happens.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is 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. ED is the most common sexual dysfunction, and many guys experience it at some point in their lives. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 30 million American men have experienced erection problems (Nunes, 2012).
There are various causes of ED. Erectile dysfunction medications, such as Viagra or Cialis, are a great way to treat ED and could be your best option. But there are a number of ways to help increase the strength and frequency of your erections with just a few simple lifestyle changes (or “life hacks,” if you’re one of those guys). Here are three simple things you can do to help improve your erections without medication.
- Erectile dysfunction is extremely common—over 30 million American men have experienced it.
- The good news: You can do three simple things to help improve the quality of your erections.
- Those include eating a healthy diet, getting more exercise, and limiting alcohol consumption.
- But it’s still a good idea to talk with a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing ED.
More exercise = better erections
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Exercise is good for you. I know it’s boring medical advice to tell you to exercise regularly, but cardiovascular health and erections are intimately linked.
Erectile dysfunction is sometimes the first sign of more serious health problems—like heart disease or high blood pressure (hypertension). The blood vessels in your penis are smaller than the larger arteries in other parts of your body. What that means is the first sign of hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, and clogged arteries may not be a stroke or a heart attack. It could be erectile dysfunction. Regular physical activity reduces your risks for cardiovascular disease (which is awesome), but it also lowers your risk for ED. Try to think of a better reason to sweat through a spin class.
The good news is, you don’t have to turn into a gym rat to see results. Just incorporate a few daily activities into your routine. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day seems to be the magic number, and it’s easier than you think:
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- Park in that faraway spot that nobody wants. You’ll add a few minutes to your morning walk, but you’ll be the office hero. People will throw a parade in your honor (Fitness tip: Be in a parade. That’s a couple of miles of good solid cardio).
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get familiar with all the fire exits in your workplace while burning a few calories.
- Take a walk whenever you take a call. It’s called a mobile phone for a reason. Motion creates emotion, so get up and get the blood pumping during your next quarterly recap or big sales call.
Find the time to exercise. A few minutes a day can add years to your life—literally. And if that exercise results in stronger, more frequent erections, even better.
You are what you eat
Spoiler alert: A healthy diet is good for you. What you might not know is that better eating habits—including the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats—are also associated with a lower risk of ED (CEJU, 2017). And the cool thing about a healthy diet is that you don’t necessarily have to lose weight to get better erections. You just have to improve the quality of the food you eat.
Several peer-reviewed studies, like the Massachusetts Male Aging Study (Feldman, 1994), have linked a healthy diet to reduced risk for ED—not to mention other serious conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity (both risk factors for ED). The secret is increasing fruits, veggies, and grains and reducing processed foods, sugar, and red meat.
Skip that third sugar in your morning coffee. Make the switch from regular soda to diet. If you’re a total badass, make the jump to drinking just water. When it comes to meals, replace half of your red meat with a vegetable or swap out beef with chicken or fish once a week.
The key to making lasting dietary changes is small moves. You want to gaslight your taste buds and bad habits with gradual changes until you don’t even realize you’re eating healthier. Try to fake yourself out.
Everyone is different, so not every diet will work for you. You can experiment with the Mediterranean diet, the keto diet, or follow these guidelines to find a hybrid eating plan that works for you. But remember, start small. Don’t try to change everything about your habits in one huge overhaul.
Eat more of these:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
Eat fewer of these:
- Red meat (processed and unprocessed)
- Processed food
- High sugar drinks (like soda)
While it might seem a little on the nose, when it comes to erections, you are what you eat. Maybe that eggplant emoji is secretly genius.
The two drink rule
Definitive research is still (surprisingly) a little murky on the relationship between alcohol consumption and erectile dysfunction. However, most doctors will agree that moderation is a good idea when it comes to alcohol—especially on date night.
In the long term, heavy alcohol use increases the risk of liver disease and cirrhosis, which in turn increases the risk of ED. In the short term, heavy alcohol use acts as a central nervous system depressant decreasing overall arousal. And as a general rule, depressants are bad for sexual performance.
For most men, having a drink won’t impact sexual performance in any meaningful way. However, definitely limit yourself to two drinks before sexual activity, especially if you’ve struggled with erectile dysfunction. And drinking heavily while taking ED medication is not advisable.
So there you have it: three relatively easy lifestyle changes that can improve blood flow and erectile function. Eat better, exercise more, and keep the drinking to a minimum. Erectile dysfunction can signal a major health problem, so if you’re experiencing ED, get checked out. You might want to get your testosterone level checked—low testosterone can contribute to a reduced sex drive.
However, it’s worth looking into your diet and lifestyle before you start taking medication. And even if you’re currently taking ED meds, a healthy lifestyle has numerous benefits for your physical and sexual health.
- Mediterranean diet and erectile dysfunction: a current perspective. (2017). Central European Journal of Urology, 70(2). doi: 10.5173/ceju.2017.1356 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28721287
- Feldman, H. A., Goldstein, I., Hatzichristou, D. G., Krane, R. J., & Mckinlay, J. B. (1994). Impotence and Its Medical and Psychosocial Correlates: Results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. Journal of Urology, 151(1), 54–61. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5347(17)34871-1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8254833
- Nunes, K. P., Labazi, H., & Webb, R. C. (2012). New insights into hypertension-associated erectile dysfunction. Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension, 21(2), 163–170. doi: 10.1097/mnh.0b013e32835021bd https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22240443