Find out what could be causing erection problems, and how to get your sex life back on track
Trouble in the bedroom? You’re not alone. Erectile dysfunction is one of the most common male sexual disorders, affecting around half of men aged between 40 and 70 years old.1
What is erectile dysfunction?
Also known as impotence, erectile dysfunction is a condition in which a man can’t develop or sustain an erection. If it happens occasionally, it’s usually nothing to worry about. But if you’ve noticed that impotence happening more frequently, it could be erectile dysfunction (ED).2
What causes it?
Ageing, smoking and being overweight are the main reasons for ED, but the following conditions also increase your risk:3
- drinking too much alcohol or taking too many drugs
- lack of exercise
- high blood pressure
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What can you do?
In a 2015 study published in Current Sexual Health Reports, researchers found that losing weight and taking more exercise improved ED symptoms in about a third of the participants who lost at least 10% of their body weight.4
Stopping smoking can help, too. A review of studies in the journal Andrologia, published in 2016, reported that smoking interferes with the release of a neurotransmitter, nitric oxide, which is needed for a successful erection. Nitric oxide helps blood vessels sufficiently relax, allowing enough blood to fill specific chambers in the penis.5,6
In a different study, published in 2010 in Spermatogenesis, more than 50% of men with ED who quit smoking saw an improvement six months later – double the number who didn’t give up smoking in the study.7
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Natural ways to boost blood flow
Certain herbs and plants may encourage the body’s cells to produce nitric oxide and, in turn, the dilation of blood vessels:
- red ginseng – a 2013 study by the University of Hong Kong found that the active component of this Korean herb, ginsenosides, not only encourages cells and nerves to produce nitric oxide but makes them more sensitive to it.8
- beetroot juice – beetroot is naturally high in nitrates, which the body turns into nitric oxide.9
- gingko biloba – an extract of the gingko tree, this Asian herb encourages cells to produce nitric oxide.10
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies
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1. NHS Inform Scotland. Erectile dysfunction (impotence). Available from: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/sexual-and-reproductive/erectile-dysfunction-impotence
2. NHS Choices. Erectile dysfunction. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/erection-problems-erectile-dysfunction/
3. As above
4. Pastuszak AW. Current Diagnosis and Management of Erectile Dysfunction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394737/
5. Kovac JR, et al. Effects of cigarette smoking on erectile dysfunction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4485976/
6. Sullivan ME, et al. Nitric oxide and penile erection: Is erectile dysfunction another manifestation of vascular disease? Available from: https://academic.oup.com/cardiovascres/article/43/3/658/321047
7. Chan SS, et al. Smoking-cessation and adherence intervention among Chinese patients with erectile dysfunction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20709257
8. Leung KW and Wong AST. Ginseng and male reproductive function. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3861174/
9. Medical News Today. Can beet juice help treat erectile dysfunction? Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320675.php
10. Koltermann A, et al. Gingko biloba extract EGb 761 increases endothelial nitric oxide production in vitro and in vivo. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17497242