For men to achieve an erection, a complex chain of events involving a man’s brain, hormones, blood vessels, and nerves is necessary. First, men with a strong sex drive and stimulation of the penis activate the parasympathetic nervous system that releases neurotransmitters through nerve pathways leading to the penis. Next, smooth muscles of the arteries bringing blood to the penis relax due to the neurotransmitters and engorge the penis with blood leading to a firm erection suitable for sexual intercourse.
The most noticeable sign of reduced blood flow to the penis is erectile dysfunction.
However, many men will experience blood flow issues to the penis resulting in erectile dysfunction. The symptoms of erectile dysfunction are straightforward. These symptoms include a decrease in the firmness of the erection, shorter-lasting erections, and a longer recovery time between erections. Any of these symptoms can lead to men unable or struggle with getting and maintaining an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.
Erections require an increase in blood flow to the penis. For example, the inability to achieve an erection is often caused by symptoms of underlying health issues that may damage the inner lining of blood vessels, restricting the heart from pumping blood efficiently throughout the body, including the penis. These health issues include major chronic diseases such as arteriosclerosis or clogged arteries, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and diabetes. Chronic Illnesses such as these can also lead to health complications that can shorten a man’s life. Erectile dysfunction can also lead to stress, contribute to relationship problems for men, affect a man’s self-confidence, and may lead to depression.
Men experiencing erectile dysfunction should talk to their doctor to find the underlying cause.
Everyone should aim to reach a healthy body weight. However, men who gain weight often store extra pounds in their abdominal area, called belly fat. Men with a growing waistline, leading to a large accumulation of belly fat, tend to have reduced testosterone levels that may require treatment. Low testosterone is linked to low libido and erectile dysfunction.
Men who lose weight through eating a healthy diet and engaging in weight training and aerobic exercise will gain lean muscle that can help restore testosterone levels to normal.
Drinking alcohol depresses the central nervous system, slowing the release of information between a man’s brain and penis, reducing sensitivity to this region. Also, due to alcohol’s diuretic effect, it’s dehydrating, which increases levels of the hormone angiotensin, narrowing blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow to the penis.
It’s no secret that smoking or using other nicotine products harms your health. For men, it can also be a cause of erectile dysfunction.
For men who smoke, over time, it can cause narrowing of blood vessels supplying blood to the penis, resulting in erectile dysfunction. The good news is men who quit all nicotine use will begin showing signs of circulation improvement within 2 to 12 weeks which may result in improvements in sexual performance during that period. Men who have quit using nicotine and still experience erectile dysfunction, should see their doctor to find the cause and recommendations of treatment options.
Stress has an enormous role in causing erectile dysfunction. During major stress (such as a car crash), the body releases adrenaline that increases your heart rate to help move oxygenated blood to the muscles and releases blood sugar into the bloodstream to boost energy, preparing the body to “fight or flight.” This is a normal response during these situations. What’s not normal is when men experience chronic daily stress and anxiety, which leads to erectile dysfunction, and having erectile dysfunction causes stress and anxiety. It’s a vicious cycle. Common sources of daily chronic stressors include job issues, money problems, parenting, illness, or marriage.
Chronic stress can damage the functioning of blood vessels, reducing adequate blood flow to the penis.
To help ease chronic stress, men should consider counseling to identify major stress factors to learn how to manage them. Other approaches for men to consider to reduce stress might include meditation, regular exercise, reducing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine use, yoga, or participating in a hobby they enjoy.
Certain medications can be used to treat erectile dysfunction, but there are also certain foods that may help improve erections. Nitric oxide is a key player that acts as a vasodilator, relaxing smooth muscles in the penis to allow blood flow for a firm erection. Some foods can aid in this process by either improving blood flow, containing nitric oxide, or containing arginine, which is a precursor of nitric oxide.
Here is a listing of foods that meet this trifecta of helping men achieve and maintain erection:
*Watermelon provides a precursor to nitric oxide called citrulline, helping dilate and relax blood vessels.
*Spinach and leafy greens like arugula and kale are excellent sources of nitric oxide.
*Coffee – Men who drink 2-3 cups of coffee daily have lower rates of erectile dysfunction.
*Salmon is one of the richest sources of vitamin D, helping prevent endothelial dysfunction and obstructing good blood circulation.
*Dark chocolate of at least 70% cacao content – loaded with flavonoids, makes blood flow throughout the body easier.
*Nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and walnuts – pistachios contain arginine that increases nitric oxide production, while almonds and walnuts provide healthy fats that absorb bad cholesterol that blocks blood flow.
*Blueberries and oranges are packed with flavonoids, which encourage blood flow
*Spicy foods like hot peppers – studies show men who eat spicy foods containing capsaicin, have higher levels of testosterone.