Low Libido and Erectile Dysfunction: the ‘under the covers’ effects of lifestyle-related disease

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low libido

How bad is the problem and what causes it?

The Massachusetts Aging Study reveals that by age 40, a significant percentage of men (about 40%) will experience low libido (sex drive) and erectile dysfunction or ED ( difficulty achieving or sustaining an erection). These are  two of the least discussed effects of the Metabolic Syndrome.
Metabolic Syndrome is not a single disease. Rather it is a cluster of  lifestyle-related conditions. Included are: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, high levels of insulin, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal HDL cholesterol and blood fat levels. If you have any three of the aforementioned conditions then you may well suffer from the Metabolic Syndrome.
While there are a number of differing causes for ED and low testosterone, Metabolic Syndrome appears to be a common thread linking these two conditions.

Insulin resistance is underlying cause of the syndrome. High and sustained levels of the hormone insulin, which in secreted by the pancreas, indicate the presence of insulin resistance.  Insulin resistance is, in turn, often associated with high blood sugar levels, which is a marker for diabetes.  It’s the sustained high blood sugar level, hyperglycaemia or diabetes, that is essentially responsible for the blood vessel and nerve damage (neuropathy) that appears to be implicated in ED.

The levels of the sex hormone testosterone begin to decline once men turn 30, and continue to do so as they age. Reduced testosterone is often accompanied by decreased libido or sex-drive and or ED even when sex drive is ‘normal’. Certain medications may also be associated with ED even where testosterone levels are normal. Many men never speak up about sexual dysfunction. They are often reluctant or even ashamed to discuss these problems with their healthcare providers and so sadly remain hidden sufferers.

What can be done to improve ED and low T?

The solution to low libido and or ED may have less to do with using medication than with implementing appropriate self-care, especially with regard to following a healthy lifestyle. For example:

  • Stop smoking. Research shows that smoking is a major risk factor for ED. What is important is that many men who were smokers and suffered from ED reported significant improvement once they stopped smoking. This means that ED is not necessarily a ‘cast in stone’ condition. 
  • Lose weight by eliminating sugar and reduce refined carbohydrate consumption to near zero. Research shows that weight loss improves testosterone levels and improves ED. 
  • Consider intermittent fasting e.g. not eating or drinking energy containing beverages from 19:00  to about 11:00, allowing  insulin levels to remain lower for longer thus fostering weight loss and  boosting testosterone levels and improving ED. 
  • ‘Get moving’. Short intense exercise has a positive effect on testosterone levels. For example, a Harvard study showed that just 30 minutes of brisk walking every day was associated with a 41% reduction in ED. And while you are at it, add some resistance training to your exercise programme.
  • Ensure an adequate intake of Zinc. Do the research and identify Zinc-rich foods.  Supplementing with Zinc for just six weeks has been shown to significantly improve testosterone levels in men with low levels of this important hormone.   
  • Take a daily multivitamin and consider having a series of Vitamin B12 injections as a chronic deficiency of this vitamin may contribute to ED.
  • Emotional stress is a big bedtime party-pooper. One of the best ways of moderating emotional stress is to get an adequate amount of sleep. The experts seem to agree that 7 to 9 hours at night is a target worth aiming at.   

By implementing these simple lifestyle modifications it is possible to improve libido levels without having to resort to drugs or mechanical devices.

If you would like help in combating lifestyle-related disease, the please email me at askdrhill@upforit.co.za.

I’m Dr Peter Hill for UpForIt – Preventing People From Becoming Patients.

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