Impotence: Factors to Think About

Although psychological factors certainly affect male sexual function, recent studies show that most cases of impotence are due to underlying disease or lifestyle factors. Here we discuss some of the most common culprits:

Research has found that diabetes, atherosclerosis, paralysis, or, less commonly, hormonal imbalances are among the organic causes of impotence. The use of a number of drugs — including alcohol, nicotine, illegal substances, as well as prescription medications — can lead to impotence. It is recommended that nicotine be avoided, as it impedes blood flow by constricting the small arteries, including those that bring blood to the penis. Medications that commonly cause impotence include antihypertensives, acid-suppressants for ulcers, antidepressants, and sleeping pills. In most cases, an alternative drug can be prescribed.

Dietary factors affecting impotence. While diet does not have much of an effect on impotence, medications can help. The most popular drug is sildenafil citrate (Viagra), which boosts the activity of an enzyme, cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), which is the key to having an erection. Below are two frequently made suggestions:

Zinc is absolutely key. Zinc is among the minerals thought to be essential to good reproductive health. While zinc intake may not have a direct effect on potency, it may be important for male sexual health, since very high levels are found in the seminal fluid. Good sources of zinc include seafood (especially oysters), meat, poultry, eggs, milk, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Zinc supplements are not recommended; in high doses they can interfere with the absorption of calcium and copper.

Watch your weight. It’s important to maintain a normal weight; obesity predisposes a person to diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of impotence. Studies have shown that obesity puts men at greater risk for erectile dysfunction. Also, a diet low in saturated fats helps prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of fatty plaque that clogs not only the large vessels around the heart but also the penile artery. With this in mind, limit alcohol and saturated fats.

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