Erection problems, commonly referred to as erectile dysfunction or ED, are often symptoms of a larger problem relating to arterial health. To combat erectile dysfunction, a multifaceted approach must be employed, focusing primarily on diet and exercise. Treating and reversing erectile dysfunction can be made simple by choosing whole foods rich in fiber and nutrients.
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Erectile Dysfunction -- an Early Warning
According to author and physician Michael Greger, erectile dysfunction can be the first symptom of a much larger problem -- atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is defined as the hardening of arteries, due to the buildup of arterial plaque. This condition can limit the amount of blood flow to the heart and brain, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Because the arteries that deliver blood to the penis are only half the size of the coronary arteries in the heart, however, erectile dysfunction can be one of the first signs of atherosclerosis.
Diet and ED
Diet is key to preventing and reversing atherosclerosis, and therefore it plays a vital role in treating erectile dysfunction. Medical institutions, including the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic, note that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains and low in sodium and saturated fats can benefit men with erectile dysfunction. This type of heart-healthy diet can reduce cholesterol and help maintain a healthy body weight -- two important factors in reducing the risk of ED. The Cleveland Clinic notes that erectile dysfunction more commonly affects overweight men.
Heart-Healthy Foods for Treating ED
A heart-healthy diet consists of high-fiber foods, including whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables; healthy omega-3 fats from fatty fish, such as salmon, trout and mackerel; and omega-6 fats, which are found in sunflower oil, soybeans, nuts and seeds. It is also important to limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol -- such as whole-fat dairy products, egg yolks and red meat -- and replace processed foods, which often contain trans fats, with unsaturated fats from plant sources and fish. Finally, limit your sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day, and avoid foods and beverages high in sugar.
More Tips for Reversing ED
The importance of exercise cannot be overlooked in the battle against erectile dysfunction. According to Harvard Medical School, walking 30 minutes per day can reduce your risk for ED by 41 percent. The school also notes that men with a 42-inch waist are 50 percent more likely to have ED than men with a 32-inch waist -- as obesity is strongly linked to ED. Limit your alcohol consumption to a maximum of two drinks per day and quit smoking, as it is essential to controlling ED, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Finally, certain medications can cause ED, although it is important to first talk to your doctor before changing or stopping any prescribed medications.