Having erections that are not as hard as you would like can be frustrating and embarrassing. Fortunately, there are things men can do or undo when they have erectile problems.

According to the senior surgeon and professor of surgery, Harvard Medical School, Dr. Michael O’Leary, the main cause of erectile problems is vascular ― blood flow issues. And though blood flow issues are more common in older men, there are certain habits that younger men also engage in that have major effects on their blood circulation, especially to the penile area. Let’s get to it.

1. The role of poor diet in erection

Just like any performance issue in your body, the kind of erection you get has a lot to do with the kind of food you eat. Meaning, just making simple dietary changes could lead to harder erections.

Excessive consumption of fatty, processed, and fried foods can lead to obesity and increase circulatory issues.

As Dr. Neal Barnard explained, the cholesterol and saturated fats in foods such as meat, cheese, etc. narrow the arteries throughout the body. This is why ED might be the least of your problems if you have a bad diet.

The same foods that lead to narrow arteries in the heart, causing various heart diseases also causes low blood flow to the penis. In the words of Dr. Barnard,

“Men with erectile dysfunction are 60% more likely than other men to have a heart attack, stroke, or any heart related hospitalization. In severe cases, even a heart related death.”

The good news, as Dr. Barnard explained, is that when you use low-fat plant-based diets such as vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, etc., one of the most common side effects is that ED improves and often goes away. Why?

Just as a healthy diet can reverse artery blockages in the heart, it can do the same thing for the rest of the body, including the penile area.

2. How excess alcohol affects  erection

You don’t have to cut out your alcohol intake totally, but you sure need to make sure you’re only using it in moderation. Here’s why:

Alcohol is a depressant. It dampens your mood. This in turn makes it decrease your sex drive, making it harder to achieve an erection. Furthermore, drinking too much alcohol above can decrease your sexual sensitivity. As Dr. David Thomas, a mental health counselor said,

“Alcohol is a sedative. And in order to maintain an erection (or the blood flow to the penis), the brain has to be stimulated through thought as well as through physical sensation. And when this stimulation is minimized as a result of the intoxicating and numbing effect of alcohol, it can create a dysfunction.”

3. Stress

Stress can have hormonal effects on your body, making it decrease the quality of your erection.

Chronic stress can have effects on the male reproductive system, causing erectile dysfunction, decreased sexual desire and performance, and in some cases even leading to impotence.

Hence, if you are unable to achieve or maintain erections and you know you have a stressful lifestyle, find ways to manage stress properly.

Related read: 10 Foods For A Stronger Erection

4. The importance of regular  exercise

One of the causes of weak erection is being overweight.

Being overweight decreases blood flow to your penile area. Exercising itself and losing weight increases blood flow in your body, including to your penis. And as Dr. Michael explained, anything that increases blood flow to the penis is good for erection.

What you want to strive for is at least 30 minutes of cardio activity a day. You also want to strengthen the muscles around the penis by doing exercises like kegel and pilates.

Work out your pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles you use to hold in a fart or to cut your urine midstream. Most of us have heard of Kegels. A lot of women use it, and there’s no reason why men shouldn’t use it too.

In 2005 there was a study done in the UK where the researcher separated men who have been suffering from erectile dysfunction for at least 6 months into two groups.

In one group, they had them do lifestyle interventions like changing their diet. But the other group did pelvic floor exercises in addition to the lifestyle changes. At the end of three months, they started seeing major improvements in the group that was doing pelvic floor exercise.

5. Lack of quality sleep

Studies show that there’s a connection between erectile dysfunction and lack of sleep.

Those who have a regular lack of sleep are more likely to accumulate plaque in their arteries, causing a decrease in their blood flow. This in turn makes it difficult for them to achieve an erection.

Ideally, we should aim for 7 to 8 quality hours of sleep every night. It’s great for our overall health, but it specifically helps increase blood flow throughout your body, including your penis.

Interesting read: 10 Tiny Habits That Can Ruin Your Sex Life

6. Low testosterone level

Lower testosterone levels can lead to several things like a decrease in the production of male hormones, reduced sex drive, irritability, and increased cortisol levels.

And increased cortisol (the stress hormone) is at the detriment of the production of your testosterone. And this in turn makes it difficult to get turned on or achieve a strong erection.

7. Smoking

Most of us already know that smoking is an unhealthy habit. But most people are not aware of the effect it specifically has on our blood circulation.

Smoking makes the blood vessels ticker and narrower, making it much more difficult for blood to flow through the vessels.

Studies reveal that men who smoke are more likely to have ED. Smoking can also lead to coronary heart disease since it dampens blood circulation. As James Roland wrote in Healthline,

“The risk of smoking to your erectile health is due to the effects of cigarette chemicals on the blood vessels in the penis… Even if the nervous system is operating well, an erection might not be physically possible if the blood vessels are unhealthy due to smoking.”

Also read: 5 Vital Things Men Need More Than Sex From Women

8. Infidelity

Not only is being faithful a sign of integrity, but it can also help you achieve better erections.

Most of the time men go to doctors to get help with their erections, one of the sets of questions the doctor will ask is “Are you unfaithful?” And the reason for this is because being unfaithful can lead to a weak erection. Why?

A man who is cheating often will feel guilty and have anxiety and stress trying to cover it up. And stress and guilt may not give way to the kind of connection and attention needed to be aroused.

Final thoughts

In addition to the things on this list, one of the best things you can do when having problems with erections is to talk to your partner.

Have open and honest conversations. The problem might be boredom. There may be some anxiety in your relationship that needs to be brought to light. Or you may just have a disconnect in your intimacy.

When you have an open honest discussion, there are things your partner may decide you can try to do.

For instance, you may decide to spice things up, maybe do some role-playing, or simply discuss intimacy. Remember sex isn’t just physical, it’s more mental and emotional.

That said, in some cases, there may be some underlying psychological or physical causes for weak erection or erectile dysfunction. If this is the case, it’s probably not going to be something you can fix yourself.

Though it may be challenging to reach out for help for something as personal as a weak erection or ED if it has become an ongoing problem and you’ve tried several ways to fix it, reach out for medical care.

Also Read: How To Create Desire In A Woman

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