Can modifying lifestyle risk factors improve erectile function?
Researchers from Brazil and the United States analyzed that question and found that “while intriguing, most of the literature and evidence is not completely scientifically compelling.”
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a man’s inability to achieve or sustain an erection suitable for sex. It is more common in men over 40 and becomes more of an issue as men age.
Past research has shown that comorbid risk factors for ED include heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and depression. Lifestyle factors that men can control and modify, such as exercise, smoking, drinking alcohol, weight control, and diabetes management are believed to help alleviate ED.
In this study, researchers examined scientific literature and evidence regarding lifestyle modifications and their benefits for men with ED. Their focus was on men without recognized comorbidities. Specifically, they considered the following areas:
- Physical activity
- Diabetes control
- Hypertension and antihypertensive treatment
- Depression and antidepressant therapy
- Other lifestyle factors, such as frequency of intercourse and bicycle riding
In their review, the authors pointed out some of the challenges in analyzing the literature. For example, they noted that the effects weight loss and physical activity on ED are “difficult to separate.” Depression was also a complicated factor, as it is difficult to know whether depression itself causes ED or whether ED makes a man depressed.
The authors also discussed how medications intended to treat certain risk factors, specifically high blood pressure and depression, can still have sexual side effects, including erectile problems. Some men may need to try other medications for these conditions.
Men without comorbidities should be advised to exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and stop smoking to improve their erectile function, the authors suggest. Men who do have comorbidities may make lifestyle changes to prevent ED or reduce its impact.
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Glina, Sidney, MD, et al.
“Modifying Risk Factors to Prevent and Treat Erectile Dysfunction”
(Full-text. First published online: September 12, 2012)