Experiencing erectile dysfunction (ED) can be isolating and frustrating. If you struggle with ED, know that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re actually in the majority. Research shows that 53% of men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience some degree of erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection adequate for sexual activity. Dealing with ED can be a very distressing condition for men to experience. Often it leads to stress, anxiety and a sense of emasculation. Thankfully there are steps you can take to improve the condition. 

Why being overweight puts you at risk for ED

Being overweight or obese can risk damaging your blood vessels and decrease testosterone levels impacting erectile function. A little bit of belly fat won’t put you at risk for erectile dysfunction; however, being overweight or obese is associated with ED.

Men who are overweight are at a higher risk for elevated cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. All are risk factors for ED due to the way they affect blood flow, tissue function and overall health. You need good blood flow to your penis in order to get an erection, so anything that affects this can cause ED. Type 2 diabetes can also impact nerve function involved in getting erections.

Another factor important for sexual function is testosterone. Testosterone is necessary to have a healthy sex drive and can impact erections, particularly morning or nighttime erections. Men who have a large amount of belly fat can experience a hormonal imbalance from a decrease in testosterone and an increase in estrogen.

If you’re wondering how these risk factors might affect you, start by looking at your lifestyle and current physical health. You can use a BMI calculator to find out if you are considered overweight. However, keep in mind that a BMI scale is a general tool which doesn’t account for your individual body composition. A doctor or healthcare specialist can help you understand the specific health conditions you are experiencing.

Can weight loss improve ED?

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While being overweight or obese is not the only possible cause of ED, it can be a contributing factor, and research shows that losing weight can help restore erectile function. 

In one study, a group of men affected by both obesity and ED lost an average of 33 pounds over two years by participating in a dietary and exercise program. Over 30% of the men regained normal sexual function while making the lifestyle changes required for weight loss. In comparison, only 5% of the men in the control group (the group that didn’t take part in the diet and exercise program) stopped experiencing ED.

Because excess body fat and ED are linked, many of the same lifestyle choices that help you lose weight are also recommended to help with ED.

Lifestyle changes that help you lose weight and improve ED

If you’re among the 3 million Canadian men over 40 that are affected by ED, you can work towards making healthy lifestyle changes to help with erectile dysfunction, being overweight and generally being healthier.

Exercise

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Regular physical activity decreases excess body fat and prevents many medical conditions associated with erectile dysfunction. What better motivation is there to break a sweat and get rid of that growing beer belly?

Check out these testosterone-boosting exercises!

Eat a heart-healthy diet

Sticking to a healthy diet has countless benefits, including better sexual health. Transitioning to a heart-healthy diet means avoiding saturated and trans fats, eating less processed sugar, and reducing salt intake. The key, of course, is balance. Start by adding more whole foods, especially vegetables, into your meals.

Get more sleep

Sleep deprivation creates a hormone imbalance, leading to overeating and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to help you eat better and have more energy. Prioritize sleep in your schedule and set a goal to go to bed at a reasonable time to get enough shut-eye. 

Avoid excessive alcohol intake

Drinking alcohol can make it particularly challenging to lose weight due to the sneaky calories packed into each drink. Alcohol dependence can also contribute to impaired sexual function in men. Try setting a drink limit for yourself to slowly reduce your intake and stay on track by choosing more activities that don’t involve alcohol to help you resist temptation. 

Quit smoking

Limp cigarette between two fingers

When you stop smoking cigarettes, it can improve ED. Research shows that ex-smokers can see a significant improvement in erectile function once they quit. Kicking any addiction is no easy feat, but the numerous benefits for your health–and sex life–are worth it.

What are the latest treatments for ED?

Depending on the severity of the ED you’re experiencing and the health factors contributing to your condition, lifestyle changes may not be the complete solution for you (though they always help).

Medical treatments for ED include:

  • Oral medications
  • Injectable medications
  • Vacuum or pump devices
  • Urethral suppository medications
  • Surgical implants

Your first step in seeking further treatment for erectile dysfunction should always be to consult a medical professional.

While erectile dysfunction can be a persistent issue and stressor for your emotional health and relationships, don’t feel hopeless. You can do many things to improve and prevent the problem, making sex more enjoyable and fulfilling once again.

What’s something you’ve tried to help you shed a few pounds? Share it with us in the comments below.

In 10 minutes, learn your risk level for the 8 most common health conditions affecting Canadian men. Men’s Health Check is free, anonymous and backed by medical experts.

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