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Men: Troubleshoot Your Sex Life

Follow these 5 steps to improve your sexual vitality and performance as you get older.

Step 1: Exercise for Sexual Vitality

There is at least one health habit -- exercise -- that has a clear link to sexual vitality, Goldstein says. Among men enrolled in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, a long-term, community-based study of health and aging, researchers found that men who burned an average of at least 200 calories per day through exercise were far less likely to become impotent over time than men who didn't exercise.

But not all forms of exercise are equal, Goldstein cautions: Men who rode bicycles -- on the road or in the gym -- were nearly twice as likely to be impotent as men in the general population. Researchers chalk it up to continued compression of the nerve and blood supplies to the penis.

Step 2: Kick the Habit and the Fats

The ability to have an erection relies on a complex network of factors, some physical, some psychological. One of the most important factors is healthy arteries. The penis contains an intricate network of tissues that fill with blood during an erection, and if these arteries are blocked by atherosclerosis, there may be trouble in paradise.

"It's incontrovertible that atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries because of plaque deposits, begins in youth," Castleman tells WebMD. "The thing is that it usually doesn't cause significant clinical symptoms until guys are in their 40s or 50s. But if you're a man and you're in your 40s or 50s, you can pretty much rest assured that you have some narrowing. Maybe it's not affecting your heart function, but it's there, and the narrowing of arteries doesn't happen just in the coronary arteries of the heart, it happens all over the body, including the pudendal arteries that carry blood into the penis."

Three of the best ways to prevent atherosclerosis and boost sexual vitality down the road are:

  • Cut unhealthy fats from the diet
  • Lose weight if you're overweight
  • Quit -- or better yet, never start -- smoking

"I wish I could buy billboards all around the United States that said 'With every puff (of tobacco), your penis suffers,'" Castleman says.

Step 3: Check Your Medications

Erectile dysfunction can also be an unwelcome side effect of many commonly prescribed drugs, as well as some over-the-counter agents and illegal substances, according to researchers.

Talk to your doctor about this possible side effect if you're taking drugs to treat:

  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Psychosis
  • Anxiety
  • Heartburn
  • Benign prostate enlargement
  • High cholesterol

Your doctor may advise you to switch to another drug. Or your doctor may suggest taking the drug at a particular time of night when it's less likely to interfere with your sexual vitality.

Substances such as alcohol, anabolic steroids, heroin, and marijuana can also cause impotence, experts say.

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