If you believe those upbeat, seductive advertisements, men only need to pop a pill to awaken their dormant sex life. Whether the problem is erectile dysfunction (ED) — the inability to maintain an erection for sex — or low libido, ED medications appear to be the quickest and easiest solution.
While these drugs work for most men, they are not right for everyone. ED drugs are relatively safe, but can cause possible side effects such as headaches, indigestion, and back pain. Plus, some men may not want their sex life dependent on regular medication, or simply can’t take them because of high or low blood pressure, or other health conditions.
Fortunately, there are some proven natural ways for men to manage their ED and increase vitality. Bonus: these strategies also can enhance your overall health and quality of life, both in and out of the bedroom.
Six ways to boost your sex life without medications
- Get moving. Research has shown that regular exercise is one of the best medicines for ED. One study of almost 32,000 men ages 53 to 90 found that frequent vigorous exercise equal to running at least three hours per week or playing tennis five hours per week was associated with a 30% lower risk of ED compared with little or no exercise. It doesn’t really matter how you move — even walking is great — as long as you keep moving.
- Eat right. Go bullish on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, while downplaying red and processed meat and refined grains. This type of diet lessened the likelihood of ED in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. Another tip: chronic deficiencies in vitamin B12 — found in clams, salmon, trout, beef, fortified cereals, and yogurt — may harm the spinal cord, potentially short-circuiting nerves responsible for sensation, as well as for relaying messages to arteries in the penis. Multivitamins and fortified foods are the best bets for those who absorb B12 poorly, including many older adults and anyone with atrophic gastritis, a condition that may affect nearly one in three people ages 50 and older. Also, make sure you get enough vitamin D, which is found in fortified milk or yogurt, eggs, cheese, and canned tuna. A study in the journal Atherosclerosis found that men with vitamin D deficiency have a 30% greater risk for ED.
- Check your vascular health. Signs that put you on the road to poor vascular health include soaring blood pressure, blood sugar, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides; low HDL (good) cholesterol; and a widening waist. Check with your doctor to determine whether your vascular system — and thus your heart, brain, and penis — is in good shape, or needs a tune-up through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medications.
- Measure up. A trim waistline is one good defense — a man with a 42-inch waist is 50% more likely to have ED than one with a 32-inch waist.
- Slim down. Tip the scales at a healthy weight. Obesity raises risks for vascular disease and diabetes, two major causes of ED. And excess fat tinkers with several hormones that may feed into the problem, too. Need more reasons? Slimming down helps with tips 3 and 4.
- See your dentist. A study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found an association between gum disease and risk for ED. Gum disease causes chronic inflammation, which is believed to damage the endothelial cells that line blood vessels, including those in your penis.