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Weight and Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Want another good reason to drop a few extra pounds? Studies suggest there are links between being overweight and having erectile dysfunction (ED). So not only can getting in shape make you feel more attractive and improve your health -- it could also improve your love life. Here's how.

Testosterone and Sex Drive

It’s unclear at what level a lack of testosterone in the bloodstream may affect ED. But it is clear that this hormone helps to boost the sex drive.

Obesity has been shown to lower testosterone in men. An increase of 4 inches in waist size led to a 75% chance of having low testosterone levels.

Most men who have ED should, and likely will, have their testosterone checked. Ask your doctor to test your testosterone level if he hasn't suggested it, especially if you're overweight. If it’s low, medication or losing weight can help boost your desire to have sex.

Vascular Health

ED can be an early warning system for circulatory problems and heart disease, both of which are linked to extra weight. The reason: An erection requires extra blood to be sent to the penis and kept there during sex. If something blocks that blood from getting or staying where it needs to be, you won’t get or maintain an erection.

Plaque clogging the arteries that supply blood to the penis is often the cause. If you have ED, talk to your doctor about having your cholesterol checked. Also ask your doctor if you need a stress test to look for possible heart disease.

Medications

Medications that help you lose weight, along with those that treat conditions caused by extra weight (from high blood pressure to aches and pains), can also cause ED. These include high blood pressure medicines, diuretics, heartburn treatments, and painkillers. Ask your doctor if any of your medicines might cause erection problems.

Psychological Causes

You might be overweight for many reasons. Among those reasons are stress and depression. ED can result from physical or mental causes -- or both. Researchers have also found a link between severe obesity and depression. So if you’re severely obese, talk your doctor if you're concerned that you may be depressed.  

Some antidepressants can cause ED. If you're taking one, talk to your doctor about switching to a different drug to see if things get better. Never stop taking this medicine without talking to a doctor about how to taper off.

If you're anxious, fearful or guilty about sex, therapy with a trained counselor can help. Sex therapy can also help your partner cope with the sexual problems you're going through as a couple.

Exercise Can Help

Not only will regular exercise burn calories and lower stress, it may lower your risk of ED. Before you start working out, check with your doctor about the best program for you. Think of exercises you're likely to enjoy and will want to continue on a daily basis, whether it's 30 minutes in the morning on a stationary bike while watching the news, a kick-boxing class, or a brisk after-dinner walk around the neighborhood with a friend.

In a recent study, moderate-intensity exercise such as walking briskly and light cycling was shown to boost mood for up to 12 hours. Exercising every day might be best to lift your mood, but strive for at least 5 days a week. Another study showed exercise can improve your body image, regardless of body weight or shape. And feeling good about your body is a great start toward making the bedroom a happier place. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on November 27, 2013

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