Save your sex life: The links between lifestyle and erectile dysfunction

2014-02-10 00:00

TWO researchers from the UKZN’s Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition studying the factors contributing to the rise in the incidence of erectile dysfunction, believe it is all lifestyle related.

Suna Kassier and her colleague Frederick Veldman recently researched the factors that linked food and the increasing incidence of erectile dysfunction.

The term impotence has traditionally been used to signify a man’s inability to get or sustain an erection. Globally, an estimated 10 to 20 million men suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED). It is a condition that is thought to affect more than 25% of men over the age of 50.

Kassier said: “It is not ageing itself that is a cause of this problem, but more often the associated diseases that occur with getting older.”

Their report says that men in that age group often are diagnosed with metabolic syndrome (MS), cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes mellitus (DM) and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity. Many patients resort to tablets they can get from chemists or in some desperate cases they even believe that the rhino horn may provide a cure for their inability to function.

Their research showed that ED occurred commonly in patients who later suffered from a cardiac event. The relationship between men who suffer from ED and those who suffer from diabetes can be as high as 90%.

Their research showed that ED was more prevalent among men who smoked and in some cases medication prescribed for various conditions may cause or increase the possibility of ED. The medication in question may include diuretics, antihypertensives, cholesterol lowering medication, antidepressants and tranquilisers.

Kassier said: “A western lifestyle that is characterised by too much food, stress and too little exercise is definitely one of the contributing factors of the rise in ED.

“In most instances, the treatment of ED relies on extreme lifestyle interventions, such as diet, exercise and weight loss, stopping smoking counselling and glycaemic control through diet.”

ED is treated in combination with drugs, such as the use of Phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) commonly known as Viagra.

The UKZN researchers point out that the miracle cure known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5) do not help everyone and they have side effects like hypotension, headaches, flushing, dyspepsia, gastrointestinal symptoms and nasal congestion, blurred vision, a rash and back pain. In rare cases, the cure can even bring on a small heart attack.

Pollution in cities has also added to the general infertility being seen in men who are unable to help their partner conceive naturally. In South Africa, male infertility accounts for 40% of total infertility or failure to conceive.

Kassier and Veldman are recommending that men start to consider their sexual health long before it gets to be a problem by taking steps to control their lifestyle. They ran trials that showed that by improving lifestyle alone, erectile dysfunction could be improved without the use of drugs.

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