If you are not a man, or, if you are a man but you don’t care about having sex into your 40s, 50s, and beyond, you can stop reading this. But if you’re like most men, you have a healthy interest in sex. After all, it is one of our strongest physical drivers. (You know, protecting the continuation of the species and all that.)
Unfortunately, our modern society is riddled with the condition known as erectile dysfunction.Though men aren’t too happy about this development, the pharmaceutical industry is ecstatic, because each one of those little blue pills goes for $30 to $45. And though we see ads for them on TV all the time, we rarely learn about what causes ED, how to prevent it and especially how to cure it. Prescription drugs essentially address symptoms but seldom attack the root causes of illness.
So what does cause erectile dysfunction? Diabetes, 90 percent of which is Type II and therefore preventable; heart disease, specifically atherosclerosis, also preventable; and hypertension(high blood pressure), likewise mostly preventable. There are other causes of ED like prostate cancer, spinal cord injuries, etc., but the main causes are as previously stated with heart disease being the main culprit.
The December 2005, American Journal of Cardiology stated, “Evidence is accumulating to consider erectile dysfunction as a vascular disorder.” ED impacts 30 million men in the United States and 100 million men worldwide. Dr. Michael Greger of Nutritionfacts.org reacted to this statistic with, “Wait a minute, the U.S. only has 8 percent of the world’s population but 30 percent of ED sufferers.” He believes that outcome is directly attributed to the western diet. And he adds, “ED and our number one killer, coronary artery disease, are just two manifestations of the same disease: inflamed, clogged, and crippled arteries. In other words, heart disease.”
The journal European Urology in 2003 stated, “Atherosclerosis is a systemic disorder that uniformly affects all major vascular beds.” The website EDcure.org explains that “Erectile Dysfunction precedes coronary artery disease in almost 70 percent of cases. In fact, ED could be an indicator of silent CAD, heart disease you don’t know you have.” The International Journal of Clinical Practice agreed in 2010, indicating that, “Erectile Dysfunction is so closely identified as heart disease that the initials ED could stand for early death.”
Remember, coronary artery disease, or atherosclerosis (also called hardening of the arteries), is caused by a buildup of plaque inside our arteries. Now here’s where it gets interesting. The coronary arteries, those feeding the heart, are about the size of a drinking straw, so if they get partially clogged, blood can continue to flow. But, the penile arteries are the size of a swizzle stick for your coffee – very small. As you can imagine, a small amount of plaque deposit will block blood flow, and hence, the ability to get and maintain an erection.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that all three of these diseases: Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension are almost totally lifestyle related. Poor nutrition, lack of exercise, smoking, and sleep deprivation are all fixable. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in his book, “Eat to Live,” states that nutritional indifference promotes disease consequences. Think about that for a minute.
One can stop smoking, get enough sleep, and begin exercising, but if one insists on eating BBQ ribs and chili cheese fries, not much will change.
I told you I would address what causes ED — lifestyle; how to prevent it — lifestyle; and how to cure it — lifestyle.
The reason I know this is because so many nutrition science websites — including those of Dean Ornish, M.D., founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute; Neal Barnard, M.D., founder and president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine; and Caldwell Esselstyn, MD., author of “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” — include patient testimonials. And almost every male patient, after sharing how he no longer has diabetes, angina, or obesity, will end his story with this sly grin: “Oh, and by the way, my erectile dysfunction went away too.” The gleam in the eye of each one belies any residual embarrassment.
Let’s sum up. Foods that are bad for your heart: processed food (trans fat), meat, dairy, and eggs (saturated fat), meat, dairy, and eggs (cholesterol). Foods that are good for your heart: plants (no trans fat), plants (no saturated fat), plants (no cholesterol). Beans, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit are you new best friends. Your heart will thank you, and your wife will be happy too.
Patsy Ouellette of Bakersfield is a retired teacher.