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Penis Problems: Are You at Risk of Erectile Dysfunction? 2014-11-12
By Dr. Tom Brett

The fear of developing erectile dysfunction is very real for many men. However, not only are there a number of effective ways to treat the condition, but there are also many preventative measures you can take to reduce the chances of developing it in the first place.

While erectile dysfunction (ED) may affect any man at any stage in his life, there are several ‘risk factors' which make it more likely. These include:

    high blood pressure
    being overweight
    being unfit
    heavy drinking

Physical risk factors - high blood pressure, being overweight, being unfit, diabetes, smoking and heavy drinking - can cause blood vessels to narrow. This reduces blood flow to the penis and therefore the chanches of getting, or keeping, an erection.

Physiological risk factors like stress and anxiety can reduce your libido, which causes both a lack of desire to have sex, and the inability to attain an erection. And, of course, trouble getting an erection can cause yet more anxiety, creating a negative spiral.

Stay in shape

One way to reduce your chances of developing ED is to stay in shape. Doing regular exercise and eating healthily will help you maintain a healthy weight. It will also keep your heart pumping well, and prevent fatty deposits from building up in your blood vessels. This will keep your blood flowing properly, allowing plenty of it to reach your penis at the crucial moment.

Foods you should steer clear of when trying to stay in shape include:

    fatty meat
    junk food or takeaways
    cakes and biscuits
    cream, cheese and margarine
    sugary drinks

Instead, you should try to eat more:

    fresh food
    fruit and vegetables
    oats and grains
    pulses, such as beans and peas

As well as eating healthily, it's a good idea to try and get regular exercise. Government guidelines say that between the ages of 19 and 64 you should try to do at least 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week, such as brisk walking, cycling or swimming.

Quit smoking and heavy drinking

Smoking and regularly drinking large quantities of alcohol increase your chances of developing erectile dysfunction. Smoking damages and narrows blood vessels, making it more difficult for blood to flow to the penis, while heavy drinkers are more likely to have high blood pressure, which also impairs blood flow. So cutting down on these two elements of your lifestyle may well reduce your risk of ED.


Stress and anxiety can cause erectile dysfunction by reducing your libido, so taking steps to relax and de-stress could reduce your risk of ED. Getting regular exercise, taking some time off, whether a weekend away or just a lunch break, and socialising with friends, family or colleagues, can all help to reduce stress levels. For more tips, click here.

Treatment for erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a natural part of ageing, and even men who are in great shape, both physically and mentally, can experience it. So it is good to know that there are plenty of treatment options available.

Prescription medicines

Viagra is the most well-known medicine for erectile dysfunction. It is a blue, diamond-shaped tablet which is taken before sex. It increases blood flow to the penis, allowing for a firmer erection.

Viagra has been shown to be 75% effective in men with ED, however some men find that they experience side effects from Viagra, the most common being nausea and headaches.

If Viagra doesn't work for you, it may be worth trying an alternative ED medicine, such as Cialis or Levitra.

Psychological treatment

If your ED is caused by stress, anxiety or an underlying psychological condition, counselling may help resolve the problem. This is often combined with medicines like Viagra which help in the short-term. Once counselling has resolved the issue, you should be able to stop taking the medicine.


ED need not generate the fear it once did. It can still strike any man at any age, but now we are better equipped than ever to deal with the problem. Reducing your risk factors is important, but even if you do start to suffer from ED there are plenty of effective treatment options available.

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