The single biggest cause of erectile dysfunction is insufficient blood flow to the penis. To keep ED at bay, take whatever steps are needed to promote robust vascular function.
A healthy supply of blood is critical for life. Blood vessels carry oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, and that helps keep your skin, internal organs, and everything else working like they should. Erection health also depends on a good supply of blood, but sometimes this is impeded by other factors. Where blood flow is diminished to the penis, erections almost certainly will suffer.
Think of blood as being carried through your body in a series of tubes, which is what blood vessels are. If anything happens to damage or constrict those tubes, the natural result is less blood getting to where you need it.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve blood vessel health and also improve erection health in the process.
How an Erection Happens
Erections are a lot more complex than you might realize. The process involves several different parts of your body, beginning with your brain.
The first stage of an erection is stimulation. This could be something you hear or something you see, or it might be as simple as a touch. This stimulation reaches the brain, where the signal is sent out and down through the spine.
Once the stimulation signal reaches nerves in the lower part of the spine, those nerves trigger the release of nitric oxide into the penis. Nitric oxide is a critical part of the process, as it causes the blood vessels leading into the penis to expand, allowing more blood to flow in.
With more blood flowing in, it has to go somewhere. That’s where two spongy tubes along the left and right sides of the penis enter the picture. These tubes are highly flexible, and take on a large volume of blood. At the same time, the blood vessels leaving the penis constrict, temporarily keeping the extra blood from flowing back out again.
When blood flow is diminished, you might not receive enough blood to the penis for an erection to happen. Or you might receive some, but not enough for an erection that’s firm enough for sex.
The causes of diminished blood flow are often related to blood vessel blockages. There are other causes, such as nerve damage and certain diseases, but if you have high cholesterol and blockages, blood can’t flow freely. Reduced blood flow to the penis can also be an early-warning sign of heart disease. Because the vessels that supply the penis are smaller than those in other parts of the body, they may be among the first to show signs of blockages.
The Cholesterol Controversy
Blockages in blood vessels are generally deposits called plaque, and the condition is called atherosclerosis, explains WebMd . If you have high cholesterol, you’re probably at risk for these blockages.
The problem is that medical experts not only disagree but sometimes disagree vehemently about the causes of plaque buildup and what to do about it. The best advice here is to talk with your doctor.
The most common school of thought is that certain fatty foods such as red meat naturally lead to high cholesterol and consequently to plaque buildup in blood vessels.
Plaque makes blood vessels narrower on the inside, which restricts the flow of blood. This is a process that doesn’t happen overnight; it usually takes years for plaque to become a problem. WebMd also says plaque triggers the release of a chemical that can make the inner walls of those same blood vessels sticky, which can lead to more blockages and a hardening of those arteries.
Patients may be advised to reduce plaque with medications and by changing certain lifestyle habits. These may include quitting smoking, cutting out high cholesterol foods, keeping diabetes under control, getting plenty of exercise, and watching your weight.
On the other side of the debate are people like Mark Hyman, M.D., who writes for Huffington Post.
Hyman asserts that years of well-meaning dietary advice has been wrong, and it’s sugar, not fat, that raises cholesterol and contributes to heart attacks. He also explains that new research shows sugar lowers good cholesterol levels and causes inflammation inside blood vessels, which also leads to heart disease.
In his opinion, it’s a high-carb, low-fat diet that causes more heart and blood vessel problems. Your doctor will probably be on one side of this debate or the other, so it’s up to you to decide which food choices make the most sense for your life.
Other Ways to Improve Blood Flow
Diet may be a hot topic, but some advice is perennial. Exercise, quit smoking, keep blood sugar in line, and see your doctor regularly.
Mayo Clinic says exercise can not only help you lose weight and lower cholesterol, but it can also increase your good cholesterol levels. It recommends taking brisk walks, swimming, riding a bike, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, and any other activity that gets your blood flowing. Also recommended is losing even just a little weight. If you lose 5 percent of your body weight, you can see a dramatic improvement in cholesterol levels.
Smoking is one of the leading causes of heart disease. If you quit, your HDL or good cholesterol level improves, and you can see other improvements, such as a reduced risk of heart attack, in as little as one year.
Sometimes medication is a necessary intervention. If improving your diet and getting plenty of exercise don’t seem to help, your doctor may prescribe medication that helps reduce plaque buildup, which will help blood flow more freely.
Diabetes can lead to numerous health problems, including high cholesterol. That’s why it’s so important for people with diabetes to keep their blood sugar under control. If you have diabetes, the American Heart Association says you’re more prone to higher bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol levels.
Medications That May Help
Sometimes diet, exercise, and every other measure you try still isn’t quite enough to increase blood flow for a healthy erection. If that’s the case, you should know about a special class of medications called PDE5 inhibitors.
You’ve no doubt heard of Levitra, Cialis, and Viagra. Two others are Staxyn and Stendra. All of these medications work in a very similar way, although they have slight differences.
These erection health medications help improve blood flow to the penis, even when other factors such as high cholesterol aren’t under control yet. Some PDE5 inhibitors work faster than others, and some stay active in the body longer than others. Some have restrictions for which foods you can eat, and some have no dietary restrictions at all.
One thing all PDE5 inhibitors have in common is that they are not safe for men who take nitrates for chest pain. The reason is because taking one of these medications along with nitrates can cause a sudden and dangerous drop in blood pressure. If you are interested in one of these medications, be sure to tell your doctor about any other medications that you take.
Erection health depends on a healthy supply of blood flowing in. That’s the difference between the ability to achieve and maintain an erection, and not. If you have high cholesterol, you’re already at risk for the deposits that inhibit blood flow. And if you are experiencing difficulty achieving an erection, you may already have plaque buildup in those small blood vessels that supply the penis.
Adding a medication such as Levitra, Cialis, or Staxyn to your routine can help improve blood flow while you’re working on other lifestyle changes. And the meds can also give you an edge where those changes aren’t enough.
Longtime online facilitator eDrugstore.com sells a full range of PDE5 inhibitors, including both brand-name and generic products. Each of these medications has been proven effective for the treatment of erection problems. To learn more, visit eDrugstore’s Erectile Dysfunction page.