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Last updated September 17, 2016 (originally published May 30, 2008 )
By Editors of MangoBoss, L, Carr Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Erectile dysfunction --ranging from complete inability to maintain
erection to inadequate length of your erection -- affects up to 20
million men in America.
The causes of ED, as it is commonly known, are varied. But one chief
culprit is high blood pressure and arterial disease. What does high
blood pressure have to do with maintaining an erection?
Plenty. In fact, many doctors believe that asking a man how he's doing
in bed is the single most important clue to his overall health. In fact,
having ED raises your risk for dying prematurely by 70%. Sex
The reason is clear. To maintain an erection, the entire system of your
blood vessels and arteries must work properly. An erection can only
occur when blood circulates properly and allows engorgement of the
penis. It's all about the pipes.
The arteries are pipes. Complicated pipes but pipes nonetheless. If the
pipes are clogged-- by fat or cholesterol or plaque-- your circulation
and therefore your erection will be damaged.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is defined as having the inability to maintain an
erection that is hard enough (stiffness) and that lasts long enough
(duration) to achieve penetration during intercourse.
On a chemical level inside your body, producing an erection requires a
choreography of several different chemicals. As a 2010 study from the
Centre for Scientific Research into Plant Medicine in Ghana noted, "ED
occurs when there is an imbalance of or defects in any of the following:
decreased nitric oxide (NO) generation, decreased cyclic guanosine
monophosphate (cGMP) levels and increased phosphodiestrase (PDE)
No need to dust off your old chemistry books. Basically, you need
enough nitrous oxide ---laughing gas -- in your blood stream to relax
the blood vessels so that your penis can get sufficiently hard.
Erectile dysfunction can also manifest itself in terms of your inability to
produce a strong enough projectile stream of ejaculate or in premature
ejaculation. This latter form of ED has more to do with the strength of
the muscles needed to produce a strong ejaculation than with the
stiffness or duration of your erection.
What can you do about it?
You can lose weight. You can eat differently. You can exercise.
But one of the best things you can do to improve erectile dysfunction is
to make sure you do not have high blood pressure (hypertension).
According to two studies unveiled at the American Society of
Hypertension's Twentieth Annual Scientific Meeting, the link between
hypertension and ED is strong.
"It is estimated that at least 20 million American men have some degree
of erectile dysfunction," said Dr. Michael Doumas, from the 4th
Department of Internal Medicine, University of Athens, Greece. "Our
research determined that for men with high blood pressure, the
chances that they may be at risk for or have the devastating condition
A new study puts the estimate of men who suffer from erectile
dysfunction even higher. A 2012 study from the Georgia Health
Sciences University estimates that as many as 30 million men in
America suffer from ED. Moreover, 30% of all men with hypertension
also complain of erectile dysfunction.
Clearly, as the study concludes "Hypertension and erectile dysfunction
are closely intertwined diseases".
The other thing you clearly need to pay attention to are blocked
arteries. Arteries blocked by fat and plaque cannot transmit blood,
which means that blood cannot reach your penis to produce an
Your Erection and Your Overall Health
Men with ED are also at higher risk for developing many diseases,
including heart disease, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
diabetes mellitus, renal failure, liver and
vascular disease. All these diseases have been associated with ED.
ED is a particularly strong predictor of your risk for heart disease and
heart attacks. In a 2010 study from the University of Saarland in
Germany, researchers found that having erectile dysfunction raises
your risk of a heart attack (myocardial infarction) by 200%, your risk
for heart failure by 20% and your risk of suffering a stroke by 10%.
Perhaps even more significantly, erectile dysfunction raises your risk of
dying from all causes by 84%.
Foods That Reduce Risk of Developing ED and
High Blood Pressure
There are foods which have been shown to reduce high blood
pressure. In the study on erectile dysfunction conducted by Dr.
Doumas, researchers found a strong link between high blood pressure
(hypertension) and even moderately high blood pressure
(pre-hypertensive) men. Since hypertension and erectile dysfunction
seem to be so strongly related, the foods which are effective at
reducing high blood pressure can be expected to increase erectile
performance as well. These foods are rich in potassium.
Potassium acts like a counter balance with salt inside your body.
Together, salt and potassium regulate how much fluid goes back and
forth through cell membranes. They are like constantly battling
identical twins. Too much salt, you get high blood pressure. Too little
potassium, same result.
As The American Heart Association has noted, some people with heart
failure need to eat foods high in potassium. Potassium helps maintain
the normal function of the heart and nervous system. Many people with
heart failure take a diuretic (water pill) to help their kidneys make more
urine and get rid of excess fluid. This can cause potassium loss.
Doctors sometimes prescribe a potassium supplement and recommend
eating more potassium-rich foods.
Dried fruits: raisins, prunes, apricots, dates
Fresh fruits: bananas, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges
Fresh vegetables: beets, greens, spinach, peas, tomatoes, mushrooms
Dried vegetables: beans, peas
Fresh meats: turkey, fish, beef
Fresh juices: orange
Canned juices: grapefruit, prune, apricot
Every situation is different, so ask your health care team what's needed.
People who have kidney problems or take certain medications may risk
having potassium build up in their systems. And too much potassium
can be just as harmful as too little."
In addition to changing your diet to lower blood pressure, scientists
have also found that other lifestyle changes greatly impact your systolic
(top number in your blood pressure reading) and diastolic (bottom
number) blood pressure. For example, running just half an hour a day
can lower blood pressure significantly. Runners have a 38% lower risk
for hypertension, compared to walkers, according to a 2014 study from
Dr. Paul Williams of the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory in
New research has singled out watermelons for their beneficial effect on
The more we study watermelons, the more we realize just how
amazing a fruit it is in providing natural enhancers to the human body,"
said Dr. Bhimu Patil, director of Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable
Improvement Center in College Station, commenting on the study
released July 3, 2008.
"We've always known that watermelon is good for you, but the list of
its very important healthful benefits grows longer with each study."
Watermelon and other fruits listed above contain bio-active
phyto-nutrients. Watermelons contain a high concentration of lycopene
(as do tomatoes) , beta carotene and a particularly important phyto-
nutrient called citrulline.
Citrulline, like Viagra, causes the blood vessels to relax, producing
erections. Citrulline is an amino acid, whose name is derived from the
Latin word for watermelon (citrullus).
Update: In 2011, a study from the University of Loggia in Italy found
that supplementation with l-citrulline improved erectile hardness in men
with mild erectile dysfunction. The study looked at mean with an
average age of 56 who took a 1.5 gram tablet of citrulline each day for
a month. The number of intercourses per month after taking citrulline
increased from 1.3 on average to 2.3, almost doubling.
High fat diets have been associated with erectile dysfunction. Obesity
caused by eating those high fat meats have also been linked to heart
disease, stroke and prostate cancer in men.
To reduce your chance of ED --and heart disease, cancer and
stroke--eat healthy proteins such as fish. Oily fish like salmon, tuna,
sardines, and mackerel have omega-3s which can reduce your risk of
developing ED, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and prostate cancer.
But the biggest risk factor of all for developing ED may surprise you.
Belly Fat--What's Fat Got to Do With It?
Improving your fitness overall can reduce your risk of hypertension
and by extension ED. But abdominal fat, in particular, has been shown
to be one of the strongest indicators of early heart disease. In fact,
early studies have indicated that abdominal fat plays a significant role in
Men who carry excess pounds around the middle have decreased
sexual potency at an earlier age than men who are fit.
Did you get that? It's all about your belly fat. Lose the gut. Gain in
your fight against ED. Article Continues Below.
Making fibrous fruit and fish a part of your weekly diet, and eating
foods which in particular have been found effective in reducing belly
fat, are the best insurance you can buy against erectile dysfunction.
Fiber can be both an ally and an enemy when it comes to erectile
performance. Eating a sufficient amount of fiber helps but eating an
excessive amount of fiber, especially in the form of grains, can actually
lower testosterone levels.
Finally, you need to make sure you do not snore. Snoring puts you at a
higher risk for developing ED and a host of other health problems.
Does Yohimbe Improve Erectile
There have been countless herbs and natural extracts which claim to
enhance erectile performance – your inbox is probably flooded with
them everyday. Beware of these claims.
Unfortunately not many actually have any power at all, except to part
you from your money. One traditional aphrodisiac, however, may be
effective in strengthening erectile performance. The bark of the African
yohimbe tree has been shown to improve erectile performance. This
natural extract is the source of yohimbine, an impotence drug, and
many people claim the bark is more effective than the processed
There have been no studies to test this claim, but one 1994 study from
the Sexual Dysfunction Clinic, Springfield University Hospital, London
found yohimbine was better than placebo and successfully treated
between 30 and 45 percent of men with erectile dysfunction who used
Dangers of Yohimbe
You do need to be careful with yohimbe. Herbal yohimbe may contain
too yohimbine – according to a 1995 study from the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration, the content stated on labels is frequently
You should not take yohimbe if you have high blood pressure, kidney
or liver disease. If you take more than 40mg a day you are at risk of a
dangerous drop in blood pressure, hallucinations, abdominal pain and
paralysis. Lower doses may cause an increase in blood pressure, as well
as dizziness, anxiety, nausea and hyperstimulation. You shouldn’t take
yohimbe if you also take tricyclic antidepressants, phenothiazines,
buproprion, clonidine, methamphetamine, and drugs for lowering blood
pressure as there are negative interactions.
Arginine Can Strengthen Erectile
Arginine is an amino acid present in foods like fish, poultry, nuts, dairy
products, meat and chocolate. Your body uses arginine in order to
make nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps relax blood vessels and also plays a
part in developing an erection. Erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra
increase your sensitivity to the beneficial effects of nitric oxide, so it
would make sense to raise levels of nitric oxide in the body through
arginine. A 1999 study from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Sackler
Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Israel tested 50 men with
erectile dysfunction with 5g of arginine and placebo. More men who
took arginine experienced a greater improvement in sexual
performance than those that took the placebo. Arginine has also been
tested in conjunction with yohimbine. One 2002 study from Hopital
Foch, Suresnes, France gave 45 men this combination therapy of 6g of
both supplements, one to two hours before intercourse. The study
found it improved erectile function, especially in men who had
But L-arginine’s effectiveness in treating erectile dysfunction is still a
subject of scientific dispute. One 1999 study from the University of
Cologne in Germany examined 32 men with mixed-type impotence,
meaning impotence caused by either physiological or psychological
factors or both.
The study examined 32 men whose average age was 51.6 years. The
men were either given 500 milligrams of oral L-arginine 3 times a day
or a placebo.
At the end of the study, only 5 (17%) of the men reported a significant
improvement in erectile function at the end of the L-arginine phase .
This was less than the 6 (20%) of the men who showed improvement
after taking placebo. And, many of the men showed little or no
improvement with either L-arginine or placebo.
Dangers of Arginine
Here’s a final caution about L-arginine. Though it is a natural amino
acid, too much L-arginine can interfere with your body’s ability to
absorb potassium, which can lead to other negative effects on your
health, such as high blood pressure.
Korean Red Ginseng Boosts Erectile
Ginseng has traditionally be touted as an erection-booster, but does it
really work? In a 2002 trial from University of Ulsan College of
Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea 45 people received Korean
red ginseng or a placebo three times a day for eight weeks. Results
showed that the men taking the Korean red ginseng experienced better
sexual function than the men in the placebo group. And in a 1995 study
from Yonsei University, College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea 90 patients
were tested with Korean red ginseng or placebo. In the group
receiving the ginseng, patients experienced greater sexual satisfaction
and improved erectile performance.
A 2013 study from South Korea's Institute of Oriental Medicine in
Daejeon has confirmed red ginseng's safety as a general matter. The
study looked at 1415 other studies on red ginseng's use not just in
treating ED but also various other conditions including diabetes and
found that none of the studies reported any side effects of using red
ginseng. (Some studies report headaches and other minor side effects,
however. Read more about Korean red ginseng's effectiveness in
Update: Read more about other herbs that increase testosterone levels,
which in some cases help erectile dysfunction.
OPCs Help Erectile Performance
A group of chemicals present in a variety of food, herbs and plants may
be useful in treating erectile dysfunction. Oligomeric proanthocyanidin
complexes (OPCs) are found in the bark of the French pine tree, and
similar substances are found in grape seed, red wine, blueberries, tea,
cranberries, onions, parsley and hawthorn. Some experts suggest that
OPCs, on their own or in combination with arginine, can help treat
erectile dysfunction. One 2010 study from Department of Biomedical
Sciences, Gabriele D'Annunzio University, Chieti-Pescara, Italy tested
124 men with moderate erectile dysfunction with a formula of pine bark
extract plus arginine or placebo for a period of six months. Those men
taking the OPC-enhanced formula experienced a greater improvement
in their symptoms.
Pomegranate Juice Can Improve Erectile
A 2007 study from The Male Clinic, Beverly Hills, CA tested whether this
nutrient-stuffed juice demonstrated powers to improve erectile
performance. Researchers looked at 53 men with mild to moderate
erectile dysfunction and assessed their reaction to pomegranate juice
over two four-week treatment periods. 25 of the men reported
improvements in erectile function after drinking the pomegranate juice.
Pomegranate juice has many other health claims to its name, so this
juicy solution could be worth a try.
In 2011, a joint study from Boston University School of Medicine and
VA Boston Healthcare System looked more closely at the effects of
pomegranate of ED.
The study noted that almost all cases of ED are connected to "oxidative
stress" on your arteries, so-called "artherosclerotic ED". As the study
noted, the main culprits of this oxidative stress are diabetes mellitus,
smoking, hypercholesterolaemia (high cholesterol) and hypertension.
Oxidative stress is the same process more or less that causes iron pipes
to rust when exposed to oxygen and water. It's also the same process
that turns a fresh apple brown when left open to the air. In plain
language, this just means that anything that ages your arteries or
causes stress on your arteries also damages your ability to maintain an
Scientists have long known that foods high in anti-oxidants fight this
so-called oxidative stress. Pomegranates are among the foods highest
in these helpful anti-oxidants.
The researchers at Boston examined rabbits who were given ED by
damaging their arteries. Afterwards, they were fed pomegranate juice.
Result? The study concluded that "Pomegranate extract significantly
improved intracavernosal blood flow, erectile activity, smooth muscle
relaxation and fibrosis of the atherosclerotic group in comparison with
the atherosclerotic group receiving placebo, but did not normalize
them to the age-matched control levels".
Bottom line is that pomegranate juice can help to improve blood flow to
your penis, and improve ED somewhat. It may not, however, restore
your erectile activity to 100% of normal.
Mondia Whitei, an African Root, Can
Increase Erectile Hardness At Certain
Mondia Whitei root is a woody plant native to Africa and that is used,
particularly in Ghana, as a natural aphrodisiac. But scientific studies
have reached conflicting conclusions as to its effectiveness.
In 2010, study from a team of researchers from the University of
Ghana and the Centre for Scientific Research in Plant Medicine decided
to settle the issue once and for all of exactly what effect, if any, these
plants have on erectile function.
Using rabbits as their study subjects, the team examined the effect of
various dosages of mondia whitei on erectile function.
What they discovered is that, at a dosage of 200 mg per kilogram of
body weight, mondia whitei performed remarkably well. It increased
nitric oxide and thus induced erections as well or better than sildenafil,
the active ingredient in Viagra.
But more is not better, apparently. Dosages beyond 200 mg/kg did not
work as well. There appears to be a sort of dosage cliff at 200 mg/kg,
beyond which the effect of the root actually declines.
As the scientists concluded: "The results therefore, showed that M.
whitei has the ability to increase NO (nitric oxide) production at the
Tiger Nuts May Help Erectile Dysfunction
Tiger nuts are a tuber that is grown in parts of Africa, Europe and
China. Tiger nuts have been recognized by the World Health
Organization as a possible solution to malnutrition in underdevelopment
regions of the world. New research has also found that tiger nuts help;
improve blood circulation, which of course can also improve erectile
dysfunction as a side effect. (Read more about tiger nuts health
Fenugreek Has Promise as a Boost to
Scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia in Australia
and a private lab have found that a common seed found in African and
Middle Eastern food called "fenugreek" can raise your libido.
Fenugreek, whose technical name is "Trigonella foenum-graecum" was
combined with a mineral extract and fed to 60 men who did not have
ED for 6 weeks. At the end of the 6-week period, the men reported that
the concoction increased "satisfaction with muscle strength, energy
and well-being but did not have an effect on mood or sleep."
More test are needed to determine whether fenugreek can be reliably
recommended as an enhancer of erectile performance.
Ashwagandha Has No Proven Effect on
Ashwagandha, whose technical name is “ Ashwagandha (Withania
somnifera)” is an herb used in Ayurvedic healing practiced in India and
increasingly by as a form of non-traditional medicine in US and other
Western countries. Other names for ashwagandha are Indian ginseng,
winter cherry and poison gooseberry. Believers in Ayurvedic healing
take ashwagandha to boost their immunity systems.
But is there any scientific proof that ashwagandha works? Does it
improve erectile dysfunction in any way?
Here's the short answer ---"no". There is no well-designed study
which has established any proof that ashwagandha is effective in
improving erectile dysfunction if your ED is caused by physical
Moreover, there is not even proof that ashwagandha will help improve
Ed induced by anxiety or other psychological reasons. For example, in
2011 scientists from India set out to discover whether ashwagandha
could alleviate “psychogenic erectile dysfunction”. This study was
carried out in 2011 by Prasad Mamidi and A.B. Thakar of the Guru
Nanak Ayurvedic Medical College and Hospital in India. After taking
ashwagandha for 60 days, the researchers discovered that “there was
no significant difference found” between they compared the group of
men who had taken the ashwagandha and the men who had taken a
placebo . The ashwagandha produced no effect at all.
Caviar Improves Vascular Flow and Erectile
Caviar is rich in l-arginine which studies have found improves vascular
flow. Vascular dilation is improved significantly and in proportion to the
amount of l-arginine taken either orally or intravenously by healthy
men, according to a 1998 study from the Institute of Clinical
Pharmacology, Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
L-arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, again, the laughing gas that
makes your blood vessels relax, and improves blood flow throughout
your body including to your groin area.
Before you rush out to buy l-arginine or buckets of caviar, be aware
that other studies have reached inconsistent conclusions about l-
arginine's effect on blood vessel function, including a 2009 study led by
Dr. Eiman Jahangir of Boston University School of Medicine and Dr.
Joseph Vita of Harvard Medical School.
(Read about foods that raise your risk for erectile dysfunction.)
Now, you know exactly 1/2 of what every man needs to know to
prevent ED. Here are the rest of the tips:
Exercises That Strengthen Erections
Low Testosterone? - Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid
Improve Recovery Times Between Erections
5 Common Beliefs About Penis Size -Are They True or False?
Zinc Increases Testosterone/Stop Burning When You Urinate
Male Menopause-Symptoms and Top 10 Remedies
Fordyce Spots-Causes and Cures
Dry Penis? -Causes and Cures
Does Beer Affect Erections? -New Report
Does Creatine Affect Sperm? /Herbs and Foods to Boost Testosterone
Foods That Raise Your Risk for ED
Can Women Smell Your Testosterone?
Not Getting Enough Sleep? -Your Testosterone Levels Are Crashing
Keeping Your Heart Healthy Helps But Does Not Prevent Prostate Cancer
Enlarged Prostate?-Causes and Top 10 Natural Remedies
Register-- it's free, fast and easy. Members get first access to articles.
Prostate Cancer Research Institute
American Heart Association
American Society of Hypertension
The American Society of Hypertension (ASH) is the largest US
organization devoted exclusively to hypertension and related
cardiovascular diseases. ASH is committed to alerting physicians, allied
health professionals and the public about new medical options, facts,
research findings and treatment choices designed to reduce the risk of
American Society of Hypertension (ASH)
116 John St., 24 FL
New York, NY 10038
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