“All health issues have effects on your penis,” says Steven Lamm, M.D., an assistant professor at the New York University School of Medicine and the author of The Hardness Factor: How to Achieve Your Best Health and Sexual Fitness at Any Age.
“A 50-year-old man who is healthy is probably performing as well sexually as an out-of-shape 30-year-old who smokes and drinks,” Dr. Lamm says.
While healthy blood flow is essential to rock-hard erections, other physical and mental health factors play a role in good penis functionality.
If you’re stressed out from work or poor relationships, suffering from depression, addicted to alcohol or drugs, or woefully overweight and out of shape, that miraculous mechanical wonder between your legs won’t work as well as it could.
Fortunately, there’s much you can do to keep your member in good standing so you can still have sex well into your 80s—and maybe even beyond. How’s that for incentive to shape up? Do your private parts a favor.
1. Lose the Belly
Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to achieve ideal body weight and eliminate the fat around your gut. Abdominal fat blocks the testosterone that should be available to you, which in turn affects sexual functioning. A fat gut is a bad marker for overall health—including your sexual health.
Your penis is a barometer for your heart and artery health or a “canary in the coal mine” that can warn you of impending trouble. That’s because a penile artery is quite a bit narrower than a coronary artery. If plaque and artery hardening is starting to occur, it’ll often show up first by affecting your erection.
For a complete diet and exercise program that will banish your belly fat, check out Lose Your Spare Tire.
2. Quit Smoking
“Smoking just clenches down on your blood vessels and prevents them from being reactive,” says Dr. Lamm.
Nicotine restricts penile blood flow and weakens erections. It contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries, making smokers twice as likely to experience erectile dysfunction.
3. Take a Walk Every Day
When you exercise, blood flow increases—blood rushes through the endothelial cells (the lining of the blood vessels) and stimulates them to make more nitric oxide, a key chemical involved in producing erections.
“The healthier a man is, the more nitric oxide he produces, and the harder his erection is,” says Dr. Lamm.
Also, exercise has been shown to be as effective as medication in reducing symptoms of mild depression, another downer for penis performance.