Getting (and maintaining) an erection is a complicated process. It involves your heart, head, hormones, blood vessels, nerves, and even your mood. But erectile dysfunction is largely about inadequate blood flow. You can get stronger erections by improving your heart health and blood flow.
An erect penis contains up to eight times the amount of food as a flaccid penis. Anything you can do to increase your overall cardiovascular health and blood flow goes a long way towards treating or even preventing erectile dysfunction (ED).
On average, your heart beats 100,000 times a day and pumps over 2000 gallons of blood throughout your body. Your heart is incredibly strong, but you need to take care of this vital muscle. Exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen your heart (and your erections). It also increases stamina, strength and flexibility, which are all important in the bedroom.
Several studies have linked a healthy diet to reduced risk for ED. A good diet also helps reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity (which are both risk factors for ED). The goal is to increase your fruits, veggies, and grains and reduce your intake of processed foods, sugar, and red meat.
Obesity is a primary risk factor for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and ED. Extra belly fat interferes with your ability to send enough blood to the penis. It can even damage blood vessel lining and cause testosterone levels to drop. Even a small decrease in body fat can improve ED (among many other things). Eating a heart-healthy diet that’s low in sugar and refined carbohydrates and high in “good” fats can help lower your risk for the cardiovascular conditions associated with obesity.
There’s no miracle food to prevent erectile dysfunction. However, there is some evidence that certain foods may help. Evidence that foods can help with ED is probably related to a vascular connection. Erectile problems are usually due to not having a good blood supply to the penis, so foods that are good for your vascular system may also help prevent ED.
Leafy green vegetables, like celery and spinach, may increase circulation because of their high concentration of nitrates. Beet juice has been found to be really high in nitrates. Nitrates are vasodilators, which means they open up blood vessels and increase blood flow. Several case reports on the beneficial effects of nitrates for erectile dysfunction had already been published. The ED drugs used today are based on the relaxing effects of nitrates on the blood vessels that supply the penis.
A recent study found that flavonoids in dark chocolate improve circulation. That could be good for erection problems that are due to poor circulation. Flavonoids are naturally-occurring antioxidants that protect plants from toxins and help repair cell damage. Studies show that flavonoids and other antioxidants have similar effects on people. They may help lower blood pressure and decrease cholesterol, both of which are factors that contribute to ED.
A recent study found that men with ED who ate pistachio nuts every day for three weeks experienced significant improvement in sexual issues, including ED, sexual desire, and overall sexual satisfaction. The benefits of pistachios for erection problems may be due to a protein called arginine, which may help relax blood vessels.
The oyster has always had an aphrodisiac reputation. One reason may be that oysters have high levels of the mineral zinc, which plays an important role in the production of the male hormone testosterone, and low levels of testosterone could be one reason for erectile dysfunction. Research presented at an American Chemical Society meeting may offer another connection: Raw shellfish contain compounds that stimulate the release of sexual hormones, in both men and women.
Some studies show that watermelon may have effects on erectile dysfunction that are similar to the ED drug Viagra and may also increase sexual desire. Watermelon is rich in beneficial ingredients known as phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are also antioxidants. One of their benefits is that they relax the blood vessels that supply an erection. Although watermelon is 92 percent water, the other 8 percent may work wonders for your heart and your sexual enjoyment.
Lycopene is one of those phytonutrients that is good for circulation and good for sexual issues. Lycopene is found in deep red fruits like tomatoes and pink grapefruits. Some studies show that lycopene may be absorbed best when mixed with oily foods like avocados and olive oil. So you might want to make yourself an ED-fighting salad. Research also shows that antioxidants like lycopene help fight male infertility and prostate cancer.
It helps if you avoid large meals before having sex. Erections are mostly about blood flow. Eating a big meal diverts blood towards digesting your food, and away from giving you an erection. It’s also a good idea to avoid large meals even when you’re taking ED medications. Because a fatty meal can block absorption of the medication, making it less effective.
Lack of sleep can increase your risk of heart attack, slow your metabolism, weaken your immune system, and cause erectile dysfunction. Sleep deprivation and even sleep apnea can decrease testosterone levels. And a dip in testosterone can lower your libido, making it harder to diagnose ED.
Life is hectic. But getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night is one of the best things you can do for your health…and your erection.
ED is extremely common in men who:
Smoking damages your blood vessels, which are a big part of getting an erection. In fact, men who smoke are twice as likely to experience erectile dysfunction as non-smokers. The good news is that quitting smoking can improve your health (and your erection) almost immediately.
In the short term, alcohol relaxes the soft muscle tissues in the penis. This stops blood vessels from closing and trapping enough blood to get an erection. In the long run, excessive alcohol consumption can cause liver damage, high blood pressure, and damage to blood vessels resulting in erectile dysfunction. Alcohol is also a nervous system depressant that can block messages between the brain and the body. (It’s why people get slurred speech when they drink).
Bottomline: reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking will improve your overall health and sexual performance.