A new study shows that the real secret to longer lasting sex really lies in your arteries and not just physical desire.
"I think many men believe that desire sends a message to the brain and, hey presto, they get an erection. But what men see as a sign of virility is simply an issue of blood flow," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Melbourne endocrinologist Dr Carolyn Allan as saying.
"We now know that about 75 per cent of erectile dysfunction has a physical cause and in most cases it’s likely to be artery damage," she added.
"There are other physical causes too like nerve damage after surgery for prostate cancer, spinal cord injury or low testosterone levels - but with the average guy with erection problems who’s also got borderline high blood pressure and high cholesterol, it’s likely to be the arteries."
Here’s how it works: Erection requires blood vessels to expand by getting enough blood flow, but arteries compromised by high blood pressure, smoking or diabetes may have trouble doing this.
A firm erection also depends on the blood staying put long enough to make the erection last.
What’s less well known is that the same lifestyle habits that promote a healthy heart also promote healthy erections even into old age, said Allan.
“There’s always going to be some decline in sexual function with age. The difference is that while a fit older man with healthy arteries might have the occasional mild erection problem, an older man with damaged arteries will have more erectile dysfunction,” she said.
“But it’s now not uncommon to see overweight men in their 20s and 30s who already have high cholesterol and metabolic problems. This means more young men who are at risk of heart disease – and potentially at risk of erectile dysfunction too."
Research has found when men lost weight, stopped smoking and lowered their cholesterol levels the problem improved.
“It may be that men will need a combination of lifestyle change and erection drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra which work by improving blood flow to the penis,” Allan said.
Erectile dysfunction could also indicate increased risk of heart disease and undiagnosed diabetes.
Although treatments for erectile dysfunction are available through GPs, some men feel awkward about talking to their own doctor and prefer the anonymity of a clinic,” she said.
“But they should be concerned about a clinic that doesn’t ask questions about their general health.”