Men have incentive to protect your erection so you don’t join 30 million American males over age 40 who suffer from erectile dysfunction, “ED,” which is the inability to get or sustain an erection during 75% of attempts at sexual intercourse. How do you prevent ED?
European scientists reported that infrequent sex can lead to erectile dysfunction. This study, published in the July 2008 issue of the American Journal Of Medicine, caused a stir in men and the medical community.
Many urologists were skeptical, according to a WebMD article written by David Freeman and reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD.
The 2008 study tracked 989 men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s for five years. It showed that men who reported having sexual intercourse less than once a week were twice as likely to develop ED. The less frequent the sex, the greater the risk for ED.
“The result indicated that regular sexual activity preserves potency in a similar fashion as physical exercise maintains functional capacity,” the scientists concluded.
The study didn’t address the question of whether masturbation helps preserve male sexual function. But it probably does help, says Juha Koskimaki, MD, PhD, a urologist at Tampere University Hospital in Tampere, Finland, and one of the authors of the study.
Both forms of sexual activity seem to protect nerve fibers and blood vessels responsible for erectile function and prevent scarring of the chambers inside the penis that fill with blood to form an erection, Koskimaki says.
Not So Fast
Other urologists tell WebMD that that while infrequent sex is clearly associated with ED, it’s unclear that it causes ED. And it’s premature to conclude that frequent sex or masturbation can help men stave off ED, they say.
“Having sex is good, masturbating is good, but the concept that men have to go out and have sex to preserve erectile function is bogus,” says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego.
Ira D. Sharlip, MD, clinical professor of urology at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine and a spokesman for the American Urological Association, says that infrequent sex is more likely to be a consequence of ED than a cause.
Among men in the study, those who reported frequent sex might simply have had “good genes” that protected them from ED, whereas the men who developed ED might have had sex less frequently simply because they were having erection trouble, Sharlip tells WebMD in an email.
Erections to the Rescue
Erections seem to be the key, whether or not they’re accompanied by sex.
Anecdotal reports and expert opinion in sexual medicine indicate that having erections — with or without sex — helps preserve male sexual function. And of course, there’s no downside to having sex; it certainly won’t hurt a man’s chances of avoiding ED.
And with few exceptions, every man has several spontaneous erections each night while sleeping. So even in the absence of sexual activity, most men have a measure of built-in protection against erectile dysfunction, just by having erections at night during sleep.
The bottom line? Given the many benefits of sexual activity, and the possibility that the Finns are right about sex helping to prevent ED, urologists say there’s every reason to stay in the game.
How else can men protect their erection?
According to the WebMD report by David Freeman, here are 4 other ways to prevent ED:
Avoid problems with blood flow: Don’t smoke; control your blood pressure, cholesterol level, and medical conditions such as diabetes.
Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs that can lessen sexual desire or impair your performance.
Discuss side effects of medications with your doctor or pharmacist in case an alternative with fewer sexual side effects is available. Never change your medications without your doctor’s approval and guidance.
Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep.
Relaxed, clear teaching to promote understanding of one’s body and of sexual functioning, emphasizing the importance and normalcy of sexuality, is key to avoiding the guilt and fear that sometimes result in sexual dysfunction.
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