If you’re dealing with some form of erectile dysfunction (ED), you’re not alone. Some studies say that by age 40, about 40% of men are in the same boat. By age 70, it’s more like 70%.
But you can do something about it — and many of the most effective treatments for ED don’t require a special prescription or procedure.
“A lot of lifestyle changes can significantly help with erectile dysfunction,” says urologist Evan Shreck, MD, an ED expert who sees patients at Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute at MidState Medical Center in Meriden.
1. To treat ED, start by treating any underlying causes.
It’s no wonder ED is so common: It can be linked to any number of health issues, from sleep disorders to heart disease.
To treat ED, you have to treat the root cause.
“The most common are diabetes and high blood pressure. These are very, very common medical conditions that a lot of men have,” says Dr. Shreck. “Managing them can play a significant role in helping with ED.”
2. Switch to a heart healthy diet.
When it comes to ED, what you eat matters.
Specifically, high-fat diets can clog your blood vessels and impair blood flow, including to your penis. In general, poor nutrition leads to health issues, and as we saw above, ED may be a side effect.
On the other hand, good nutrition — and if needed, support from a dietitian — can be a key to treating ED.
“Generally speaking, follow a heart healthy diet: low salt, low cholesterol,” says Dr. Shreck.
3. Get more exercise.
Why? Regular exercise improves blood flow, which helps with erections. It lowers other ED risks, from anxiety to sleep disorders.
It also sets you up for intimate moments.
“Intercourse is exercise,” Dr. Shreck points out. “You have to keep your body in shape and have your heart healthy enough to engage in it.” Even 30 minutes of brisk walking a few times a week makes a difference.
4. Lose weight.
Yes, this overlaps with all of the above. But it’s worth calling out, because it’s a powerful tool against ED.
“Your weight can play an important role in erectile dysfunction. Weight loss and maintaining a normal body mass index can significantly improve erections,” says Dr. Shreck.
5. Along with lifestyle changes, try erectile dysfunction medications.
If lifestyle changes are your first line of defense against ED, medications are the second. Just keep them in that order.
“Medications like Viagra and Cialais are very common treatments that help promote blood flow to the penis,” says Dr. Shreck. “But you have to tackle the crux of it first, which is the lifestyle changes. The pills are going to work better when used with lifestyle modifications.”
Ask your doctor about the most effective treatments for ED.
The above are some of the most effective and common treatments for ED, but they’re not the only ones. Other options include penile injection therapy or, in rarer cases, surgical interventions.
“The takeaway is that there are a lot of things we can do to help,” says Dr. Shreck. “The key is to start the conversation with your doctor.”