Erectile dysfunction is commonly attributed to obesity, and both can sink your sex life. Find out why you should take control of your weight to regain your libido.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is one of the most common chronic conditions men face. It’s estimated that 18 million men older than 20 experience it to some degree. Yet those numbers don’t lessen the anxiety you feel when it happens to you.
Men experience ED in different ways, but in general, erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for desired sexual activity. Though various things can cause ED, there’s a consistently strong connection between obesity and sexual dysfunction – obese men are 2½ times more likely to experience ED than those of normal weight.
Obesity refers to body weight that is far above what is considered healthy. However, you could start to notice a variety of health issues, including ED, by being just 30 pounds overweight.
Obesity and Erectile Dysfunction: A Real Downer
The effects of weight gain on your sex life are twofold. First, obesity predisposes you to cardiovascular conditions such as atherosclerosis – cholesterol deposits on the walls of blood vessels that impede blood flow to your organs, including the penis. Second, obese men have lower levels of testosterone, a male hormone vital to sexual function. This affects the ability to achieve erections because you need testosterone to increase the availability of nitric oxide, a blood vessel dilator in penile tissue.
In fact, the connection between heart health and sexual health is so strong that erectile dysfunction can often be the first sign of cardiovascular disease in overweight men. Researchers at the Institute of Cardiology at the University of Milan found that nearly all men who had coronary artery disease had experienced ED an average of 2 to 3 years before developing heart symptoms. Also, doctors at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that because of its connection to obesity, erectile dysfunction may be a predictor of future heart attacks and strokes.
According to a study done at the Center for Men’s Health at Brown University in Providence, R.I., men typically first visit the doctor because of sexual complaints. So use erectile dysfunction as your opportunity to address your overall health – think of it as your body’s way of telling you it’s time to get a thorough checkup.
Obesity and Erectile Dysfunction: The Psychological Fallout
Being overweight can also place psychological obstacles between you and a healthy sex life. Because of decreased testosterone levels, you may be experiencing low libido, a depressed mood, and decreased energy. These factors conspire to further inhibit your ability and, as importantly, your desire to have a satisfying sex life. Men even report a diminished sense of vitality and well-being.
Weight Loss: Your Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction
Ready to regain your sex life? Then it’s time to shed that extra weight. Researchers at the Center for Obesity Management in Naples, Italy, found that weight loss improved sexual function in one-third of obese men.
Though the idea of weight loss can be overwhelming, the rules are actually simple. First, take a look at how much you eat. Ideally, aim to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week, which means cutting out 500 to 1,000 calories each day. That’s right – it’s time to read those dreaded nutrition labels.
Next, watch whatyou eat. Get rid of those chips and dips and cozy up to some greens and other raw veggies when you want to snack. Ditch the red and processed meats and try a fish filet instead. Switch up your white bread and pasta for some whole grains. Italian researchers found that these diet principles – the basis for the healthful Mediterranean diet – are very effective in improving ED in people with obesity.
Last, but not least, get a move on. Physical activity is a must for any successful weight-loss strategy. The numbers speak for themselves: Highly active men have 30 percent less risk for ED than couch potatoes. Don’t have time? Just skip a few episodes of your favorite TV shows and get active for 30 to 45 minutes, 3 to 5 days a week.
And remember, the key to success is to maintain these healthy habits not just until you shed the pounds, but ideally for a lifetime.