Study Shows Regular Sex Preserves Erection Health

Men who have sex regularly may lower their risk of developing erectile dysfunction, according to a Finnish research study.
Men who have sex regularly may lower their risk of developing erectile dysfunction, according to a Finnish research study.

Use it or lose it! This clever little aphorism is so widely used that sometimes we lose sight of the basic truth it expresses. A chronic couch potato is likely to lose muscle tone and strength, while an elderly gent who works the newspaper crossword puzzle each day is far more likely to preserve his cognitive skills than those who never exercise their brains.

And as it turns out, based on the findings of a Finnish clinical study, men who have sex on a regular basis may significantly lower their risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

Erections Beget Erections

While it’s true that no single study — no matter how broad-based — should be interpreted as proof positive of its findings, Australian endocrinologist Douglas Lording is convinced of one thing: “Getting erections helps keep the penis healthy.”

In an interview with ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission), Dr. Lording said, however, that more study is necessary to definitively prove whether regular intercourse provides benefits beyond those that come from masturbation or normal nighttime erections.

Finnish Urologists Conduct Study

The Finnish study, published in the July 2008 issue of “The American Journal of Medicine,” was conducted by a team of urology researchers at Tampere University Hospital.

For a period of five years researchers tracked the intercourse frequency, overall health, and incidence of erectile dysfunction among a study sample of 989 men between the ages of 55 and 75 (mean age of 59.2 years). Men who were already suffering from ED at the outset of the study period were excluded from the study sample.

Self-reporting data from study subjects was collected via postal questionnaires, and the erectile function of study subjects was assessed using the five-point International Index of Erectile Function.

Study’s Findings

The overall incidence of moderate or complete erectile dysfunction among the Finnish study subjects over the course of five years was 32 cases per 1,000 person-years. Men who reported having intercourse less than once a week had twice the incidence of erectile dysfunction as men who had intercourse at least once a week.

Researchers found no relationship at all between morning erections and the incidence of moderate or severe ED. In their conclusion to the study, researchers said “regular intercourse has an important role in preserving erectile function among elderly men, whereas morning erection does not exert a similar effect. Continued sexual activity decreases the incidence of erectile dysfunction in direct proportion to coital frequency.”

Nighttime Erections

Regular intercourse helps to promote optimal penis health, according to a Finnish research study.
Regular intercourse helps to promote optimal penis health, according to a Finnish research study.

While the Finnish study focuses primarily on the frequency of intercourse as the primary predictor of erectile dysfunction, Dr. Lording maintains that nighttime erections help to promote penis health by regularly oxygenating the tissues of the penis. He notes that “young males in their 20s are getting three or four REM [rapid eye movement] sleep erections, some lasting half an hour or so.”

While acknowledging that REM sleep erections decrease in number and duration as men age, Dr. Lording questions the claim that regular intercourse plays a more important role than nighttime erections in the maintenance of overall penis health. “I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence,” he says.

Good for Overall Health

However, Dr. Lording sees one very clear-cut benefit of regular intercourse. “If you’re having sex with a partner, there’s a lot more to it than just the erection anyway. It usually means you’re in a relationship, and that’s good for your health in a lot of ways.”

Also chiming in with their views on the conclusions of the Finnish study are two U.S. urologists who told that it makes some sense that using the penis regularly can help to prevent the development of erection problems.

Urologist Nelson E. Bennett, an ED expert at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, told EverydayHealth that “the penis is a muscle and like any other muscle it needs exercise.”

Some Doubts Voiced

However, Dr. Bennett expressed some doubts about the Finnish study’s conclusion that frequent intercourse is necessary to prevent ED. “It’s the erection that does the exercise, not the ejaculation, and most men have three to six erections naturally every night.”

Also somewhat skeptical of the Finnish study’s findings was Firouz Daneshgari, M.D., professor and chairman of the department of urology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland. “It’s difficult to draw any conclusions from these types of studies. People who have sex more often tend to be healthier.”

“The penis is a vascular and muscular organ, so this is a good hypothesis, but sexual function depends on a whole host of issues, including libido, desire, and brain hormones,” said Dr. Daneshgari. “Nocturnal erections might be enough vascular activity to protect against the physical sexual issues.”

Help for the Impotent

Fortunately for men who are suffering from erectile dysfunction, modern medical science has developed a handful of medications that are generally safe and effective for most users.

If impotence becomes a problem, prescription erectile dysfunction medications can help you resume a relatively normal sex life.
If impotence becomes a problem, prescription erectile dysfunction medications can help you resume a relatively normal sex life.

Introduced in 1998, Viagra was the first of these impotence medications to win approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In the years since Viagra’s debut, similar drugs such as Levitra, Cialis, Staxyn, and Stendra have come to market.

All of these medications, similar in chemical structure, fall under the general heading of PDE5 inhibitors. They get their name from the way in which they temporarily block the effects of an enzyme known as phosphodiesterase-5, which interferes with erectile function.

How Erections Work

In men, feelings of sexual desire in the brain trigger the release of nitric oxide. When this flood of nitric oxide reaches the penis it causes a buildup of cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or cGMP, that expands erectile tissue in the penis. Because the PDE5 enzyme naturally tends to break down cGMP, the PDE5 inhibitors temporarily block the enzyme, thus allowing  the erectile process to proceed unimpeded.

Although PDE5 inhibitors help the vast majority of men with erectile dysfunction, particularly those whose ED is of physiological origin, it is not as uniformly successful in men whose impotence is more psychological in nature.

However, the current crop of impotence drugs has allowed many men with ED to resume relatively normal sex lives after what for many has been years of frustration and embarrassment.

Prescription Needed

You’ll need a prescription to buy Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, or the other ED drugs, all of which can be purchased at your local pharmacy. If, however, you’d prefer the privacy and convenience of ordering these drugs online, is an excellent choice for such transactions.

Part of the Secure Medical network of online drugstores, eDrugstore is based in Tempe, Arizona. It sells only FDA-approved drugs that are sourced from licensed U.S. pharmacies. If you already have a prescription from your doctor, you can fax or scan and email it to eDrugstore with your order. If you need a prescription, eDrugstore can arrange an online consultation for you with one of its team of contract physicians at no extra cost.

Don Amerman is a freelance author who writes extensively about a wide array of nutrition and health-related topics.


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