Men's Sexual Health Connected to Overall Health
Consider this: Thirty to 50 percent of men with diabetes suffer from erectile dysfunction. Men in their 40s who have erectile dysfunction (ED) are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared to men without ED. These are just a few examples of how your sexual health relates to overall health.
Between 15 and 30 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction or impotence. Erectile dysfunction refers to an ongoing inability to get or maintain an erection. Impotence includes other sexual health problems such as a lack of sexual desire, or problems with ejaculation.
Men over age 65 are most likely to experience erectile dysfunction, but even young men can get it. It's common for men to assume that the problem must be structural problems with the penis, such as Peyronie's disease, or some inherent hormonal condition.
However, study after study shows that a wide range of health issues affect erectile function and sexual health. As psychiatrist Alain Gregoire puts it in the British Medical Journal, the penis has a multiplicity of connections within a man's mind and body - and, indeed, outside it.
Generally, sexual function suffers when you have health problems that damage vascular health and blood flow. So, while Viagra may be a quick fix, it doesn't address the underlying health problems that are plaguing your sex life.
7 Common Health Problems that Affect Men's Sexual Health
- Cardiovascular disease (CVD) - studies show that erectile dysfunction often occurs two to three years before CVD. Men with ED are also more likely to suffer heart attack and stroke.
- Diabetes increases the risk of erectile dysfunction by two to three times compared to not having the disease. ED is seen as an early symptom of diabetes.
- Smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of erectile dysfunction.
- Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is closely linked to erectile dysfunction. Research shows that between 35 and 58 percent of men with hypertension had ED compared to only 14.1 percent of men with normal pressure.
- Obesity increases the risk of erectile dysfunction, possibly because of accompanying cardiovascular problems, atherosclerosis - and hormonal changes.
- Prostatitis can cause pain and discomfort during and after ejaculation and plays a role in erectile dysfunction.
- Physical inactivity, which can lead to obesity, increases the risk of erectile dysfunction.
Other medical conditions linked to erectile dysfunction and impotence include depression, kidney disease, chronic alcoholism, hepatitis C, cancer, neurological diseases, and pelvic injuries.
Overall Health Changes that Will Improve Your Sexual Health
Diseases account for about 70 percent of erectile dysfunction cases, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse. Many of these diseases have risk factors that you can change:
Cut back on your fat intake. A high-cholesterol, high-fat diet makes you more likely to develop cardiovascular problems that increase the risk of erectile dysfunction. Try to eat more whole grains, vegetables, fruit, fish, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
Get regular exercise. Try to squeeze in at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Include aerobic and strength-training in your routine.
Go for a checkup. A simple medical exam allows your doctor to catch symptoms of health problems such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure early, which protects your long-term and sexual health.
Curb your vices. If scientific evidence and public service announcements haven't convinced you to stop smoking or abusing drugs, maybe a desire to avoid erectile dysfunction will.
Reduce stress. Job and financial stress have been linked to sexual health problems in men. Exercise, effective time management, and delegating can help you cope with stress.
Have more sex. Men who have sex at least once a week are 50 percent less likely to develop erectile dysfunction. Sex improves cardiovascular health, reduces stress, and may lower your risk of prostate cancer.
Sources: National Institutes of Health, National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse, British Medical Journal, American Association of Family Physicians, University of Virginia Health System
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.