Getting an erection: three words that come with a lot of pressure.
Sometimes, problems with your erection aren’t exactly your fault. Genetics and certain health conditions – say, diabetes or heart disease – can make it hard to get hard, since problems that affect your blood vessels can run in families, says Dr Ryan Berglund, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic. And you need uncompromised blood flow to your penis to get a healthy erection.
Plus, while erectile dysfunction (ED) can hit guys at any age, the older you get, the higher your likelihood of developing sexual performance issues, he says.
Still, many of the factors that affect your penis health and your performance in the bedroom are under your control. And even if you’re prone to poor penis health due to things you can’t really change, you can boost your chances of a better erection by focusing on the things you can tweak.
Want a better session in the sack tonight? Make these seven changes today.
1. Wake up with coffee
Your beverage of choice in the morning can play a role in how well you perform in the bedroom later that night. Research from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found that men who consumed the caffeine equivalent of two to three cups of coffee a day were less likely to report ED issues than guys who steered clear of the stimulant. The study authors say that caffeine has properties similar to Viagra. The stimulant helps the arteries in your penis to relax and your blood flow to increase – both factors necessary for a strong erection.
2. Start sweating – but not spinning
Cardio isn’t just great for your heart: Your penis benefits, too. Men who do regular aerobic exercise tend to have healthier blood vessels – which are crucial for erections – than overweight, sedentary men, says Dr Berglund. And the more intensely you exercise, the better your penis health seems to be. Men who worked out at least 18 “METS” – or metabolic equivalent of task, which takes into account both workout duration and intensity – per week reported better erectile function than more sedentary guys, a 2015 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found. For example, running for one hour at a 6-minute km pace (that’s 10 km in an hour) would give you a MET score of 9.8. Doing that twice a week would put you over the 18 MET mark.
Read more: 5 ways running affects your penis and balls
Exercise may help your body create a compound called nitric oxide, which helps you get and maintain an erection, the study authors told us. Just consider that run over a ride: “Endurance cyclists who spend a long time on their bike seats may have more trouble with ED,” says Dr Erin Michos, an associate professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Blame restrictive clothing and the shape of the seat, which may injure your perineum.
Read more: Can cycling affect your fertility?
3. Eat berries, oranges, red wine, apples and pears
According to a study from the UK of over 25 000 men, those who ate more than three servings a week of berries, oranges, red wine, apples, were 19% less likely to develop erectile dysfunction over the 10-year follow up period than men who didn’t eat them. Researchers suggest that compounds called flavonoids, which are abundant in these foods, can improve blood flow by making your arteries more flexible, in turn helping your member, the study authors told us.
4. Quit smoking (even for a day)
You should be used to the refrain by now: Whatever’s good for your heart is good for your penis. That means quitting smoking is no exception. In fact, in a study of over 2 800 smokers, researchers from Iran discovered that 25% of men who quit the habit reported an improvement in their erections one year sans cigs. In comparison, none of the guys who continued smoking experienced erection improvement – and 7% of current smokers said their erections actually got worse during that year.
Read more: How to maintain the health of your erection
Cigarettes’ main ingredient, nicotine, is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it impairs the ability of the arteries in the penis to dilate, explains Dr Berglund. And when blood flow to your penis is compromised, so is your erection. Even one day off smoking can clear nicotine from your system, allowing your blood vessels to dilate more, he adds. Still, you want to play the long game: Stub out the smokes for good.
5. Chill out
Stress is a serious sex-killer. Not only do stress hormones like cortisol inhibit your body’s ability to get an erection, but stress has a way of squashing intimacy, a huge part of a successful romp session, says Dr Berglund. In fact, the higher levels of cortisol men had, the lower their scores were on tests of sexual functioning, which includes things like how confident they were they could get an erection, how often their erections were hard enough for penetration, and how often was it difficult to maintain an erection during sex, a study from Japan found.
Your move: Download apps that help with relaxation and meditation. Research from Carnegie Mellon University finds that just 25 minutes a day of meditation is enough to lower stress levels.
6. Skip the nightcap
Booze might make you feel like you’re a sex machine, but your member will tell you differently. That’s because alcohol messes with the nerve function that creates an erection, explains Dr Berglund. It’s also a depressant, which means by the time you think you’ll be roaring and ready, you’ll likely simply be exhausted.
7. Brush up
going on in your mouth can affect you below the belt: Men with periodontal
disease – or gum disease caused by a build-up of plaque – are about twice as likely
to have ED than men with healthier gums, a review from Nature concluded. “Poor
dental hygiene has been linked to increased inflammation in the body and with
cardiovascular disease risk,” says Dr. Michos. That’s because chronic
inflammation can damage the delicate cells in the inside of your blood vessels,
which are critical for proper erectile function.
Originally published on menshealth.com
Image credit: iStock