Erectile dysfunction (ED) has several causes. Most are diseases that affect vascular function directly, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Carrying around just a few extra pounds usually won’t cause erectile dysfunction — the inability to achieve or maintain an erection that’s sufficient for sexual intercourse. But according to many professional findings, being overweight with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 can cause significant health problems that contribute to ED.
Health Consequences of Excess Weight
From a metabolic standpoint, obesity leads to diabetes by affecting the way your body processes sugar. Heavy people are more susceptible to high blood pressure and heart disease. They also tend to have high cholesterol. Being overweight increases your risk of some cancers, stroke, and gallbladder disease. Extra weight puts strain on joints and may lead to knee, ankle, and back pain. Obesity can bring on sleep disturbances, snoring, and sometimes sleep apnea, which can lead to daytime fatigue and depression. Extremely overweight people also may experience excessive sweating, overheating, and frequent rashes in skin folds.
An erection occurs when impulses from your brain and genital nerves trigger a sufficient blood supply to fill your two corpora cavernosa chambers. This causes your penis to expand and stiffen, much like a balloon as you fill it with air. Once engorged, the vessels must close to maintain the erection. Anything that blocks these impulses or restricts blood flow to your penis can result in ED. The following factors can short-circuit the process that leads to an erection and worsen your ED if it stems from physical reasons.
Obesity: Being excessively overweight can affect erectile dysfunction directly by lowering testosterone, the primary male sex hormone that plays a vital role in libido and sexual function.
Chronic disease: Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and high cholesterol contribute to ED by constricting and damaging blood vessels and affecting the way blood flows in and out of your penis. The link between chronic disease and erectile dysfunction is most striking for diabetics, who are two to three times more likely to have ED than men with normal blood sugar levels. They may experience problems 10-15 years earlier than men without this condition. Yet evidence shows that good blood glucose control can minimize this risk. Cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), kidney disease, and multiple sclerosis can impair nerve impulses and blood flow throughout your body.
Lifestyle: Bad choices that restrict blood circulation can induce ED. Smoking, excessive drinking, and drug abuse may damage your blood vessels and reduce blood flow to your penis. Smoking makes men with atherosclerosis particularly vulnerable to ED. Insufficient exercise also leads to erectile dysfunction. Studies indicate that men who work out regularly have lower ED risks.
Surgery: Procedures for prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and benign prostatic hyperplasia sometimes can damage nerves and blood vessels near the penis. When nerve damage is permanent, treatment is necessary to achieve erections. At times, surgery causes temporary ED that improves on its own after six to 18 months.
Psychological factors: Physical conditions cause ED usually, especially in older men. But stress, depression, poor self-esteem, and performance anxiety can be contributing psychological factors.
Cialis (Tadalafil) treats erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the penis so you can achieve and keep erections when sexual stimulation occurs during a typical 36-hour period. Your doctor also may prescribe a weight-loss drug like Xenical (Orlistat).
Reversing the effects of weight-related diseases and ED is within your power. Follow these weight-loss tips from the Health and Fitness Society.
Determine How Much to Lose: Use this online BMI calculator to establish your starting body mass index (BMI). It calculates values from underweight to morbid obesity and recommends corresponding weight-loss goals to improve your health considerably.
Refine Your Eating Habits: Eat more lean meats and fresh, leafy vegetables. Reduce your portion sizes. Cut out excess sugars, salts, and fats. Drink more water for adequate hydration and to feel full.
Eat regularly: When you skip meals, your body stores more fat than if you eat small, light, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Exercise regularly: If you’re obese, physical activity is challenging. Start with sitting and lying exercises, working up to standing and moving workouts. They’ll help burn extra calories and speed your weight loss.
Skip processed foods: Ready-to-eat and frozen foods are convenient, but they’re full of unhealthy preservatives, fat, salt, and sugars.
Bake, don’t fry: Enjoy tender vegetables and meats without excess butter and oils. If you can’t resist sautéed dishes, use a light canola or sunflower oil.
Choose natural ingredients: Fresh fruits and vegetables are filling and low in processed sugars and fats. Local farmers’ markets are full of great buys like apples, peaches, lettuce, and spinach that will help you lose weight. And walking down those aisles provides the extra benefit of exercise.
Try natural herbs: Green tea and aloe vera are helpful in losing weight and controlling fat storage.
Experiment with spices: Adding cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to foods can help you lose weight.
Use vinegar: Two teaspoons of vinegar in a glass of water acts as a diuretic to reduce water-weight gain. But hydrate at all times when trying to drop excess pounds.
Reduce stress: Studies indicate that stress makes some people eat excessively. Try breathing exercises to calm yourself instead.