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HEALTH

Erectile dysfunction


May 18, 2007

An apple a day . . .

You are what you eat. There's more truth to this old saying than you think. What you eat and drink and what you don't eat and drink can definitely make a difference to your health. In fact, when you consider that the juicy steak you're about to bite into will actually become your muscles in a short time, you realise that the process of eating is far more important than it is just enjoyable.

Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day and less saturated fat can help improve your health and may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Obesity is at an all time high world-wide, and the epidemic may be getting worse. Those who are overweight or obese have increased risks for diseases and conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Obesity is very rarely caused by clinical conditions. It is mainly caused by over eating and under exercising. Regular exercise is vital – but not if you follow it with fatty foods and a few cups of caffeine!

Making the dietary changes necessary for better health and weight loss doesn't have to be difficult. Choose a fruit salad over a sandwich, and low-fat over full-cream. Have half the piece of cake you normally would – and walk to the shops instead of driving. Small changes really do add up – and are worth the better health you'll have for making them.

What is Erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the persistent or recurrent inability to achieve or maintain an erection good enough to complete your chosen sexual activity satisfactorily, whether that's masturbation, oral sex, or vaginal or anal intercourse.

The occasional inability to achieve a satisfactory erection doesn't normally constitute a problem. Most men will experience an erection problem at least once. This could be due to stress, exhaustion, too much alcohol, or simply not being in the mood for sex.

Persistent ED is estimated to affect about 10 percent of men at any one time. Although age itself isn't a cause of ED, the risk nevertheless increases as you get older: 18 percent of 50�59 year olds have trouble with their erections compared with 7 percent of 18�29 year olds.

Causes

There are two main causes of ED: Physical and psychological. Most doctors agree that the majority of cases are physical but it's also clear that many men with ED can quickly start to feel anxious, stressed or depressed – which can easily make the symptoms worse.

The main physical causes are:

  • Diabetes: Up to 25 percent of all diabetic men aged 30�34 are affected by ED, as are 75 percent of diabetic men aged 60�64.
  • Atherosclerosis: Inadequate blood flow to the penis because arteries have become clogged (a condition called atherosclerosis) or damaged. This causes about 40 percent of ED cases in men aged over 50.
  • Smoking, which is implicated in up to 80 percent of ED cases, constricts the blood vessels and is a major cause of damage to the arteries leading to the penis.
  • Regular heavy drinking: Alcohol can damage the nerves leading to the penis, reduce testosterone levels and increase levels of the female hormone oestrogen.
  • Prescription drugs: The side-effects of prescribed drugs, particularly those used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, peptic ulcers and cancer cause ED in as many as 25 percent of ED cases.
  • Spinal cord injury: Almost a quarter of men with spinal injury are affected by ED.
  • Prostate gland surgery (or other surgery around the pelvis): The risk of ED depends on the type of surgery, but up to 30 percent of men who have a radical prostatectomy (the complete removal of the gland affected by cancer) will experience ED.
  • Bicycles: One little-known cause of damage to key blood vessels is cycling. Make sure you have a saddle that doesn't cause penile damage.

    The main psychological causes of ED are:

  • Relationship conflicts
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression (90 percent of men affected by depression also have complete or moderate ED)
  • Unresolved sexual orientation
  • Sexual boredom

    One rough-and-ready way of working out whether your ED has a physical cause is to see whether there any circumstances in which you get an erection. If you can produce one when masturbating but not with a partner, wake up with an erection, or have erections during the night, then there's a good chance that your ED has psychological causes.

    The good news for anyone suffering from ED is that there's help available. Speak to your doctor about the condition and get some assistance – much can be done to treat it.

    Getting enough shut-eye

    Sleep is your body's way of recharging its batteries. Power snoozers are happier, more productive and safer drivers, they also live longer. Dr Lester Breslow, from the University of California, Los Angeles, has identified certain factors that he says lengthen people's lives – and one of them is getting a good night's sleep.

    Unfortunately, you may not be among them. Surveys show that more than a quarter of all men suffer at least occasional bouts of insomnia�all for no good reason. If you have consistent problems getting to or staying asleep, you should talk to your doctor.

    But if it's just an occasional irritation, try some tips that have helped many men:

  • Exercise five or six hours before bedtime. Your body hits its most restful stage after this length of time.
  • Have a light snack of protein and carbohydrate before going to bed. Fat-free milk and pretzels are perfect.
  • Steer clear of night-caps. Although a drink may help you get to sleep, it's likely to wake you up a few hours later. Alcohol also reduces the quality of the sleep you do get.
  • Eliminate caffeine from your diet – either altogether or at least after a certain time at night.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. When it comes to sleeping, we truly are creatures of habit.
  • Several smells – including lavender, baking apples, and salt air – help us relax and nod off.
  • Take a warm bath (not a hot one) about an hour before going to bed. It will help you relax and improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Use an electric blanket on a timer. If you warm your muscles when you first get in bed, you'll drop off more easily and sleep more deeply. The blanket shouldn't stay on for more than a couple of hours, though.
  • Take up a hobby. Enjoying a recreational activity in the evening will help put the stress of the day behind you.
  • Put away the clocks. Concentrating on the time is sure to keep you awake.

    No two people are alike. Some need less sleep than others do and it's quite normal to get by on less, as we grow older. Listen to your body, and you'll know. Importantly, don't toss and turn in bed if you can't sleep. You'll just cause yourself stress, which will keep you awake even longer! Pick up a novel that doesn't require mental gymnastics, and read until you nod off again.

    Jock itch: What's that all about?

    Tinea cruris, known as "jock itch" or "jock rot," is a fungal infection caused by wearing clothes that are too tight or do not let air circulate. It usually occurs in damp, dark areas such as folds of the skin, especially in people who are overweight or who sweat a lot from hot, humid weather or while exercising.

    The infection causes burning, redness, soreness, and itching on the genitals and the inside of the thighs. Rubbing cornstarch on the affected area helps, but sometimes a prescribed medication might be needed.

    Other things you can do include keeping the area clean and dry, washing your clothes frequently and avoiding tight-fitting clothes. Don't try to wash it away – you might make it worse. You can buy over-the-counter medications for jock itch, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist about the best product for you. – © 2005, Mens Clinic International


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