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Diseases & Conditions

Treating Erectile Dysfunction: Lifestyle Changes

(Also Called 'Treating Erectile Dysfunction: Lifestyle Changes - Care & Treatment')

One way to improve erectile dysfunction is to make some simple lifestyle changes. For some men, adopting a healthier lifestyle by quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and/or reducing stress may be all that is needed to find relief. For those who require more intensive treatment, adopting these lifestyle changes in addition to other treatments can further help.

Quit smoking

Quitting smoking can be very difficult and there is no single best way that works for all people. The following are some approaches to try that might help you kick the habit:

  • Pick a quitting date one to three weeks in the future. Prepare for the date by cutting down on smoking, staying away from your favorite places to smoke, and making a plan for how you will deal with stressful events without smoking.
  • On your quitting date, get rid of all cigarettes, keep busy, and stay in smoke-free places.
  • The nicotine patch, nicotine gum, or other medication that may be prescribed to help you quit can be helpful but they will not take away your cravings to smoke. Talk to your doctor to see if you should try these techniques.
  • Make a clean break. Do not allow yourself to smoke "now and then." An addiction to nicotine can be reactivated anytime, even years after quitting.
  • Take it one moment, one hour, one day at time. Cravings to smoke are usually short-lived and will go away whether or not you have a cigarette.

Get help with quitting if you need it. Choose a comprehensive smoking cessation program that does not rely on a single technique (such as hypnosis). Your doctor can point you in the right direction.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise can improve your health in many ways. Along with improving erectile function, exercise can:

  • Strengthen the heart
  • Improve the flow of oxygen in the blood
  • Build energy levels
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve muscle tone and strength
  • Strengthen and build bones
  • Help reduce body fat
  • Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression
  • Boost self-image and self-esteem
  • Improve sleep
  • Make you feel more relaxed and rested
  • Make you look fit and healthy

To get the most benefit, you should exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes, three times a week. Current studies suggest that four or five times a week is best. If you are a beginner, exercise for 20 minutes and build up to 30 minutes.

When starting out, you should plan a routine that is easy to follow and stick with. As the program becomes more routine, you can vary your exercise times and activities. Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Choose an activity you enjoy. Exercising should be fun, not a chore.
  • Schedule regular exercise into your daily routine. Add a variety of exercises so that you do not get bored. Look into scheduled exercise classes at your local community center.
  • Exercise does not have to put a strain on your wallet. Avoid buying expensive equipment or health club memberships unless you are certain you will use them regularly.
  • Stick with it. If you exercise regularly, it will soon become part of your lifestyle.
  • If you feel you need supervision or medical advice to begin an exercise program, ask your doctor to refer you to physical therapy. A physical therapist can evaluate your needs and start you on a safe and effective exercise program.

Reduce stress

Stress is common to everyone. Our bodies are designed to feel stress and react to it. It keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. But it is not always possible to avoid or change events that may cause stress and it is easy to feel trapped and unable to cope. When stress persists, the body begins to break down and illnesses can occur. The key to coping with stress is identifying stressors in your life and learning ways to direct and reduce stress.

Learning an effective means of relaxation and using it regularly is a good first step. Allow yourself some "quiet time," even if it's just a few minutes. Examine and modify your thinking, particularly unrealistic expectations. Talking problems out with a friend or family member can help put things in proper perspective. Seeking professional assistance can help you gain a new perspective on how to manage some of the more difficult forms of stress. Other approaches to reducing stress include:

  • Keep a positive attitude. Believe in yourself.
  • Accept that there are events you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions or beliefs instead of becoming angry, combative or passive.
  • Learn to relax.
  • Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
  • Eat well-balanced meals.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Consume moderate amounts of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations.
  • Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
  • Learn to use stress management techniques and coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing or guided imagery.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/6/2007...#10047