he sexual health of men is not as complicated as that of women. Show a man a certain type of image and if his brain and nervous system are working properly to produce nitric oxide, then a response will usually occur. That’s not to discount any mental, emotional, and spiritual components but it is the physical component that has the greatest impact on man’s sexual health. This article will focus on what men can do to improve the physical component of their sexual health. The side benefit is that these suggestions can also positively impact your overall wellness and how you age.
In all the information I gathered to prepare for this article, two overriding issues kept surfacing. These two health issues were consistently present. The first is hormone levels. The second is cardiovascular health. Most men would understand how hormone levels could apply but few ever consider cardiovascular health.
Your cardiovascular health is as important to your sexual health as it is to your overall health. The reason why centers on the health of the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels of your body. The creation of nitric oxide occurs in these endothelial cells. Nitric oxide researchers believe that nitric oxide can correct up to 90% of all penile dysfunction. When the endothelial cells are damaged by high blood pressure, high sugar levels, cholesterol, and smoking this decreases nitric oxide production. Endothelial cells and their ability to produce nitric oxide are critical to the sexual health of men.
At its simplest level, sex is just a hormone driven function designed to perpetuate the species. With that said, the sexual health of American men is in trouble. Testosterone levels have been decreasing over the last 20 years. Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. It plays an important role in maintaining bone and muscle mass. Low levels of testosterone have been linked to lowered libido and diabetes. Diabetes can affect the endothelial cells of the blood vessels compounding the problem of lower testosterone levels.
Over the past two decades, the level of testosterone in American males has decreased by 16 percent. Researchers don’t know why. But there are some clues. The recent Nurses’ Health Study revealed some important truths as they apply to women. Some of those truths also apply to the sexual health of men because they affect both hormonal levels and cardiovascular health.
Additionally, as testosterone levels have decreased this has resulted in reduced muscle mass and tone, reduced metabolism and energy and an increase in body fat. Not a sexy combination! You can accept it and do nothing about it. Or, you can begin to live life by making healthier eating and exercise choices. Choices that will help your body actually be younger physically than your chronological age.
You Have Control Over the Process!
Every day you replace approximately 1% of your cells. That means that 1% of your body is new today, 1% is new tomorrow, and 1% is new each and every day of your life. You choose whether those new cells will be nourished properly or poorly. You choose whether you will have healthy and vibrant cells that act young. Or, sickly and sedentary cells that act old.
The sexual health of your body will be affected by the choices you make. I call it “The 1% Solution!” and it will positively affect the cardiovascular and sexual health of your body.
Choices Affecting Sexual Health!
The Nurses’ Health Study highlighted five critical lifestyle and diet behaviors. They are:
o Carbohydrates – Slow verses Fast!
o Fats – Natural verses Artificial!
o Protein – Animal or Plant!
o Body Weight – Your BMI!
o Exercise – Is It Important?
If you look at this list, three critical components emerge: Diet, Weight, and Exercise! Now you might think that this only applies to women. It doesn’t! Each of these factors will affect your cardiovascular health and hormonal balance. Each of these factors also affects the health of your endothelial cells and their ability to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide production is the most important component to the sexual health of men. Let’s look at how all of these factors impact your sexual health.
The Diet Component!
You are what you eat and drink. The sexual health of your body and the cardiovascular health of your circulatory system will be greatly determined by your food and drink choices. These choices will also impact the potential for disease and how you age.
Your first choice is in the area of carbohydrates. Are you choosing foods and drinks that are high in fast carbs (simple sugars)? If you are, then you need to understand that:
o Fast carbs disrupt hormone levels.
o Fast carbs create the potential for high blood sugar that can lead to diabetes.
o High blood sugar can damage the endothelial cells of your blood vessels reducing the production of nitric oxide which is critical for good sexual and cardiovascular health.
Learn to consume foods that are high in slow carbs (complex carbohydrates). Slow carbs will help to keep your blood sugar levels normal and your hormonal levels balanced. Drink water instead of sugary drinks and diet sodas. Drinking water hydrates your system, helps you balance your hormone levels, and aids in weight management.
Your second choice is in the area of fats. Eliminate all trans fats from your diet and replace them with natural, heart-health fats. The Nurses’ Health Study clearly showed how disruptive trans fats are to fertility in women. As little as four grams of trans fat (the equivalent of two tablespoons of stick margarine, one medium order of French fries or one doughnut) began to disrupt their hormonal balance.
How much of your diet consists of trans fats from fast food restaurants? How many orders of French fries and doughnuts have you consumed at work? Although I can’t give you any hard research on men, it makes sense that we can be as affected by trans fats as women are. It’s time that you incorporate foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as wild, cold-water fish, walnuts, and flax seeds) since essential fats help to balance hormone levels and promote healthy cell function.
Your third choice is in the area of protein. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, women who got their protein from plant sources rather then from animals took a big step toward improved fertility. Animal protein can adversely affect your sexual health. It also has a direct influence on cancer!
If you’re not willing to give up your beef, pork or chicken, then invest the time, energy and extra cost to make sure that these sources of protein are hormone free. This also applies to your dairy products. Much of the industry still relies on hormonal injections into their livestock to help increase food production. Eating meat from these animals and their byproducts will affect your hormonal levels. If you’re not willing to switch to plant-based protein sources, then make sure your meat and dairy sources are hormone free.
The Weight Component!
Like it or not weight impacts the sexual health of your body. Why? Because fat interferes with your hormonal balance! Fat also stresses your cardiovascular system. This additional stress on your cardiovascular system will compromise the sexual health of your body. Currently, 66% of Americans are overweight with at least a third being obese. Diets are not the answer. America has been dieting for the last 50 years. It has had no real impact on slowing down overweight and obesity rates.
You need a paradigm shift from “dieting” to “healthy eating”. Make food choices based on how it will improve your health and wellness, not on how it will impact your weight. Most people who do this see their weight stabilize or decrease.
The Exercise Component!
Exercise is important for both sexual and cardiovascular health. Inactivity saps the body of its ability to respond to insulin and makes you less efficient in absorbing blood sugar. A study from the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality highlighted that people who exercised on a regular basis:
o Feel better about themselves.
o Think they are more sexually desirable.
o Experience greater levels of satisfaction.
It’s always important to check with your physician or health care provider before you start an exercise program. Once you have their OK, than strive to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, biking, and swimming are important and seem to increase circulation to the pelvis and the reproductive organs. But don’t forget about strength training exercises. Strength training exercises will help you maintain bone health and density. Additionally, strength training exercises will increase your spatial awareness. This is a very positive feeling that improves your overall well being.
The Nitric Oxide Component!
You cannot live without nitric oxide. Your cardiovascular system could not function properly without nitric oxide. The sexual health of your body revolves around the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide production is dependent upon the health of the endothelial cells of your blood vessels, and adequate supplies of the essential amino acid L-arginine.
High blood pressure, high sugar levels, high cholesterol levels and smoking all affect your endothelial cells in a negative way. Damage to these endothelial cells will reduce nitric oxide production. This can compromise the blood flow to the sexual organ resulting in reduced sensitivity and/or erectile dysfunction.
Since nitric oxide is synthesized from the essential amino acid L-arginine, your diet needs to include protein sources and/or supplements that contain this amino acid. It needs to be emphasized that L-arginine is not a hormone and it is not testosterone. However, when properly brought into the body it can cross the blood-brain barrier to signal the hypothalamus to naturally trigger the pituitary gland to produce growth hormone. This is the key to eliminating any negative side effects typically associated with hormone supplements like DHEA and HGH.
Please note that L-arginine has a dark side and can cause some serious side effects. Read my article, “L-arginine, Nitric Oxide and Sexual Health!” for more information on this essential amino acid.
If you continue a life of inactively, animal protein intake, sugary drinks, foods made from refined grains, increased body fat, and inadequate nitric oxide production, then you will become part of the new reality for America. This new reality includes epidemic increases in diabetes, continued high levels of cardiovascular disease and stroke, continued high levels of cancer, and poor sexual health especially for those over the age of 40. As Aristotle said, “We Are What We Repeatedly Do!”
By taking the necessary steps to improve your diet, manage your weight, exercise properly and increase your body’s ability to produce nitric oxide you will experience positive changes in the sexual health of your body. If you repeatedly take these positive steps you will also improve your wellness and slow down your aging.
One Final Thought!
Although the hormonal balance between men and women are different, the process of change is the same. Many of the steps that improve the sexual health of men will also help improve the sexual health of women. Encourage your spouse or partner to implement these changes with you. If you both take the steps to improve your health, then you will both be reward in the bedroom, and in living your life to its fullest.
Until next time, may we both age youthfully!
Dan Hammer has a background in biology, chemistry and exerc