I likely spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about penises and the men to which they are attached. Slightly perverse – yes, but also necessary given my work. Seeing a man hard and happy brings a big smile to my pretty face; a sign of a job well done, so to speak.
I’m not alone in my encounters with men who have struggled with some sort of erectile dysfunction. A sex worker probably encounters more of these cases than s/he realizes, probably wondering what’s wrong with the client. The struggle is indeed real for these men with difficulties in attaining and maintaining an erection; it affects about 20% of men over 40, with increasing incidence as men age . Older men aren’t alone; up to 10% of men under 40 report problems with sexual function . These numbers may be much higher, given that many men do not report symptoms to their physicians.
There are a number of reasons for erectile dysfunction. Psychological factors such as stress and anxiety matter, and lifestyle factors are a significant contributor to sexual health in men. These are things that are within your control – diet, fitness, drug use, smoking, and alcohol intake. (“But… but!” I can hear you now. No one is putting a gun to your head to eat that cheeseburger, buddy – stop whining.)
If you have problems staying hard, it might be time to take an inward (or downward) gaze at some of your habits. Here are three things to keep you on track.
Exercise regularly. Exercise is important because it improves circulation, thus delivering more blood to penile tissue. It also reduces stress, improves confidence, and reduces your disease risk, which further reduces your chances of ED. Daily is great if you can manage it; at a minimum 45-60 minutes of moderate to high-intensity activity is recommended most days of the week (golf doesn’t count). But if you can’t manage that, anything is better than nothing. You can bang out a workout in 10 minutes with minimal equipment in virtually any space. Check out this article for proof.
If you’re set on getting more work in, cycling, swimming, circuit training with weights, running, CrossFit, martial arts – these are all great choices. Work with a qualified trainer to get started; they can help you develop a plan that’s right for you.
Clean up your diet. A healthy diet is beneficial in so many ways, not the least of which is its impact on your sex life. Research has shown the Mediterranean Diet to be effective in improving ED symptoms. Mainstream media being what it is, it’s hard to know what and when to eat. Here are some good guidelines:
– Eat more whole foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruit and lean protein sources.
– Reduce consumption of sugar, processed and takeout food. Aim to eat food closest to its natural state. If it’s in a package with a lot of complicated words you can’t pronounce, stay away.
– Eat healthier fats from food like fish, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and nuts.
– Drink more water and reduce caffeine and alcohol intake.
Nutrition doesn’t need to be complicated. This infographic puts things together quite nicely (and with pretty colors).
Take care of your mental health. The phrase “stress is the ultimate mood killer” has never been more true than for erectile dysfunction. Men with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, and paranoia, all have higher likelihood of ED . Want to get some quick relief? Try mindfulness. Mindfulness-based stress reduction has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce stress (Nycklicek). What does this involve? Usually sitting quietly and paying attention to how you think and feel. You don’t need hours a day for this; a few minutes can be beneficial, and there are plenty of apps that help you on your journey to better mental health. Try these out:
You might have read this article and thought, “hey – this stuff just sounds like general health advice!” But having sex is good for your health, and being healthy is good for your sex life. Why not get the most bang for your buck?
References (Just so you people know I didn’t make this stuff up): Cohen SD (2015). Curr Urol Rep 16 (84).  Maiorino MI et al (2015). Asian J Androl, 17(1):5-10.  Aghighi et al (2015). Int J Impot Res, 27(2): 63-68.  Nyklicek I & Kuijpers KF (2008). Ann Behav Med 35(3):331-340.