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Active lifestyle free of alcohol, tobacco may promote sexual health in men

Many men fear impotence as they get older. They think they'll either have to cut their sex lives short or rely on sexual performance-enhancing drugs such as Viagra. But a new study suggests that certain lifestyle choices might stop the problem before it starts.

The research was part of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, a long-term study involving more than 30,000 men. Through a questionnaire and follow-up examination of medical records, researchers gathered info rmation on the sexual function, physical activity, smoking and drinking habits, and health conditions of men older than 50. According to the data, several characteristics of sexual health - including desire, orgasm, and overall sexual ability - decrease dramatically every decade after age 50. Twelve percent of men younger than 59 reported significant problems with their sexual function, compared to 22% of men ages 60-69 and 30% of men older than 69.

Aside from increasing age, many factors seemed related to sexual health. Men with other health problems had twice the incidence of erectile dysfunction as healthy men. In addition, impotence was more common among men who were obese, smoked, consumed alcohol, or spent a great deal of time watching television. Meanwhile, men who were physically active (equivalent to running at least 3 hours a week) had a 30% lower risk of sexual problems.

Future studies may show obesity, smoking, drinking alcohol, and a sedentary lifestyle can actually cause impotence. For now, though, the results of this study suggest men may have the power to lower their risk of sexual dysfunction. The facts of aging are out of our control, but lifestyle choices are not. Making a change to lead a healthy, active life may prove beneficial not only to physical and mental health, but to sexual health as well.

October 2003 Update

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