Lots of guys coast on health autopilot until something they really care about takes a hit. And for many guys, that’s their penis.
“A lot of guys know their lifestyle is harming their health, but it isn’t until it begins to affect their sex life that they start to listen,” says Charles Walker, M.D., assistant professor of urology and cofounder of the Cardiovascular and Sexual Health clinic at Yale University.
Thankfully, you play a big role in how properly your penis functions. Follow these 10 simple tips to protect your penis and ward off erectile dysfunction for good.
Clean your medicine cabinet
Certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications, narcotic pain relievers, and antihistamines can cause problems with your erection.
But even over the counter meds might be causing you to droop. One of the most surprising culprits? Your allergy or cold medicine.
“The mechanism behind an erection is the exact opposite of having an adrenaline rush, and Sudafed acts very similar to epinephrine—the adrenaline hormone—killing any ability to get aroused,” says Harry Fisch, M.D., clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College/New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of Size Matters.
Read labels for any side effects, and stick to Sudafed-free prescriptions. If any prescription meds are causing you to fall flat, talk to your doctor about a possible substitution.
Keep your gut in check
Straining your belt could put your penis at risk, too. Men with a waist circumference of 39 inches or greater are more than twice as likely to have erectile dysfunction as those with waists below 35 inches.
A high waist circumference indicates higher levels of harmful visceral fat. And visceral fat is linked to lower testosterone and more inflammation, both factors which can hurt your penis.
Kick those butts
“Everyone knows smoking is bad for your health, but most people don’t realize there is a direct relationship between cigarette smoking and ED,” says Dr. Walker.
Doing it can damage the lining of your blood vessels, which affects the smooth muscle in your penis and inhibits blood from flowing in, he explains.
In fact, guys who smoke are 51 percent more likely to experience ED than men who don’t puff on cigs, a meta-analysis from China concluded.
How important is it to kick the habit? One year after quitting, 25 percent of ex-smokers reported improvement in their erections. During that same time period, not one current smoker said their erections got any better, a study from Iran found.
Leave your work at the office
“Work-related stress is a huge issue for sexual function,” says Dr. Walker. “I see a lot of guys in their 40s and 50s who are highly successful but in high-stress jobs, and a lot of them have ED.”
How come? Men with demanding jobs have a hard time leaving work at the office, which means their anxiety is in high gear for most of the day—keeping them from ever reaching full-throttle in the bedroom.
Plus, when you’re a workaholic, sleep and exercise—two big contributors to ED—tend to take a backseat.
Get quality shuteye
Scoring more sleep is always important, but even a few late nights can stifle your stiffy: Researchers from the University of Chicago found that sleeping 5 hours or less tanked testosterone levels of young, healthy guys by 10 percent after only a few days.
“Sleep affects free testosterone, the part that isn’t bound by proteins and is free to do what your body needs it to do, including support your libido and sexual function,” Dr. Walker explains.
Plus, the balance of brain hormones that have an effect on your erection—like dopamine and serotonin—are regulated by sleep.
Solid shuteye is most important in younger guys, for whom low T plays a larger part in their ability to get it up, Dr. Walker adds. So avoid these 10 Surprising Things That Are Screwing Up Your Sleep.
And aim for at least 6 hours a night, though 7 or 8 is ideal.