By Madeleine Castellanos, M.D.
Here are a few factors to consider when wanting to preserve or improve your erection:
1. Watch what you put into your body. Everything you eat, drink, or otherwise expose your body to, will affect your overall physical health and therefore, your erection. Diets that are high in fat, sugar, and artificial ingredients cause an increase in your body's inflammation response. Over time, this is damaging to blood vessels, especially those of your heart and your penis. Other culprits are nicotine (whether in cigarettes or in nicotine patches/gum) and excess in alcohol. Keep in mind that alcohol use of more than one half to one drink per day has been shown to increase your triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol which eventually contributes to arterial plaques and hardening of the arteries, resulting in decreased blood flow.
2. Get moving. Our bodies are designed to be active and in motion. By keeping active and engaging in regular aerobic exercise, you increase the blood flow to your muscles, and your penis along the way. One of the most interesting things about increasing your blood flow is that it becomes a signal to your blood vessels to grow and get wider. It benefits your brain, your heart, and your erection. The principle of "use it or lose it" is the best advise one can follow. In fact, if you don't engage in sexual activity at least once or twice a week, it would be beneficial to masturbate. This not only helps with prostate health, but encourages the blood vessels that contribute to your erection to maintain their patency and flow.
3. Don't be so uptight. When you have anxiety or stress, it creates a state in your body that directly opposes sexual arousal. This can interfere with getting or keeping an erection (or even reaching orgasm for some). Sometimes men are not aware of anxiety that they create for themselves, which may come in the form of doubts or negative thoughts. If you are having difficulties with your erection and have no physical cause for it, then it would be important to explore in what ways anxiety is affecting you. I believe that you owe this to yourself and the future of your sexual functioning.
4. Supplement your diet. Besides keeping a diet that works to create better health for you and your penis, there are certain vitamins and supplements that can improve your sexual performance and your erection. These days, our diets do not usually provide sufficient B vitamins and most people should be taking a B-100 Complex daily. In addition to this, Coenzyme Q10 100mg a day works as an antioxidant, may protect against high blood pressure, and may also be cardioprotective. But one of the most interesting supplements available is Epimedium (a.k.a. Horny Goat Weed). The active ingredient in this supplement works the same way as that of Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis: by inhibiting PDE-5, thereby increasing the availability of NO. This directly causes dilation of arteries of the penis (and other locations) which causes erections. Look for preparations made from trusted sources that provide at least 400-500mg per dose and take twice daily. This works not just for those men who have started having difficulty with getting and keeping their erections, but also for men as they age to maintain the best blood flow they can.
Be aware that difficulties with an erection can be a signal to other existing medical problems such as heart or vascular disease, thyroid problems, diabetes or other end-organ damage due to metabolic syndrome or drugs/alcohol. Please don't delay in seeking medical attention for any problems with your erection, paying attention to what may be contributing to it. But again, the best course of action is the preventative one.