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10 Things That Can Affect Erections

Sheldon Marks, MD - Blogs
By Sheldon Marks, MDBoard-certified urologistDecember 8, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

Getting an erection doesn’t just “happen” – it’s actually a complex process involving hormones, nerves, and your vascular, psychological and general health all working together. An imbalance in even just one of these factors is enough to compromise your erections, so it’s important to do whatever you can do keep everything working as it should.

Here are ten things that can affect your erections – for better or worse:

Nutrition and Diet - Eating a healthy antioxidant-rich diet, with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, is important. The deeper the color, the more antioxidants they have. One study showed that men who ate blackberries every day had better erections than those that did not. Try to increase your fish and limit animal fats from beef and dairy. And don’t go crazy on calories. Don’t eat as if you’re never going to eat again. Instead, eat only what you need to get you to the next meal.

Body Weight – Excess weight is bad for many reasons. The weight puts an added strain on your heart and may cause high blood pressure and diabetes as well as alter your hormones – all bad for erections.

Exercise – Study after study shows that being active keeps erections healthy and functional as you age. You don’t have to spend hours every day in the gym — even just walking briskly several times a week can make a difference. A “couch potato” lifestyle will increase your chances for erectile dysfunction (ED).

Alcohol – Excess alcohol damages your liver and brain, as well as your testicles, the source of testosterone. You may not see the effects on your erections right away, but drinking too much will definitely cause increased risks for ED later on in your life.

Marijuana – Though considered safe by many, and even legal in some states, regular marijuana use can reduce a man’s testosterone, which may lead to many problems, including ED.

Disuse atrophy – There is truth to the old saying, “use it or lose it.” Ideally, you should stay sexually active a few times a week to keep blood flowing and nerves active and healthy.

Blood pressure and medications – Elevated blood pressure damages the blood vessels necessary for an erection. Many medications used to treat high blood pressure can impact erections as well, though, so talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you. Some categories of blood pressure medicines do have fewer erection problems.

Depression and medications – Depression itself and the medications used to treat it and other mood issues are well-known erection killers. If you’re having problems from one of these medicines, talk to your doctor to see if you can switch to a different medication that may not cause ED.

Sleep apnea – Men with sleep disorders have a much higher chance of developing ED. If you are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, talk to your doctor about a sleep study.

Vascular health – Healthy, well-functioning arteries and veins are necessary for erections. Elevated cholesterol, blood pressure damage, nervous system issues, and diabetes can impair the blood flow needed for good erections.

If you do experience erection problems, make an appointment with your doctor for a comprehensive evaluation. Erection problems are often a sign that you may have a far more serious health problem.

Like so much with your health, maintaining erections throughout your lifetime is an investment that starts now. If it is good for your heart, your brain or for longevity, it will be good for your erections.

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About the Author
Sheldon Marks, MD

Sheldon Marks, MD, is director of the International Center for Vasectomy Reversal in Tucson, one of the leading specialty centers in the world. Dr. Marks is a best-selling author and frequently teaches other urologists about advances and techniques with vasectomy reversals. He has been writing for WebMD since 2005.

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