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Why Quitting Smoking Will Help Avoid Erectile Dysfunction

Everyone knows the health implications of smoking, from an increased chance of cancer to developing heart disease. However, did you also know it can result in problems in the bedroom, with men who regularly smoke often reporting erectile dysfunction (ED)?


What is the link between ED and smoking?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology revealed a significant connection between ED and smoking. 

Indeed, it found smokers were twice as likely to suffer from ED compared with nonsmokers. 

Other research has shown that smoking is one of the main causes of ED in men under 40, as it is known to restrict blood flow into the penis, making it more difficult to get, and maintain, an erection. 

The more someone smokes, the greater their risk of developing ED, as long-term cigarette use damages blood vessels, including those in the penis. Males who regularly smoke over 20 cigarettes a day are at the greatest risk of ED. 


Why does smoking lead to ED?

As well as constricting blood vessels, limiting blood flow to the penis when aroused, smoking can also damage the lining of the vessels. This results in an accumulation of plaque, and restricts blood flow even more. 

At the same time, it can damage nerves, making it harder for men to have sensation in their penis. This makes it more challenging to achieve an erection, as they struggle to feel turned on. 

Cigarette use is also connected with a reduction of the hormone testosterone. Therefore, guys who smoke regularly are likely to have depleted levels of testosterone, which means they have lower sexual function and find it harder to get an erection. 


When to see a doctor?

While ED is relatively common among men over the age of 40, some guys experience it earlier than this, particularly if they are heavy smokers, or have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, a history of depression or anxiety, or suffer from hormone problems. 

As the first step, the NHS recommends making changes to your lifestyle to see whether this improves the situation. This includes losing weight for overweight or obese people, eating a healthier diet, exercising every day, reducing stress and anxiety, and quitting smoking. 

It is also wise to avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol over seven days, and having a rest from cycling if you are typically on the bike for over three hours a week. 

If you have made these changes but the problem is persisting and you still cannot achieve, or maintain, an erection, it might be worth seeing your doctor for specialist help. 


Can quitting smoking reverse ED?

Of course, before you do this, it is worth giving up cigarettes entirely to see whether this could resolve the problem. 

The body is an amazing thing and, as soon as you stop using cigarettes, it begins to repair itself from the damage that has been caused. Consequently, blood vessels start to widen, improving blood flow, including to the penis. 

According to Business Manchester: “Some studies have shown that quitting smoking can be as effective as taking medication for ED.”


How do you quit?

This brings us back to the age-old question of what is the best way to quit smoking? Whether you want to reverse your ED, improve your heart health or reduce your risk of developing dementia, there are very good reasons to want to ditch cigarettes for good. 

  • Nicotine replacement therapy

Firstly, you need to choose some aids to help you on your journey, whether this includes nicotine patches, gum or lozenges, or swapping tobacco cigarettes for vape tanks instead. 

  • Vaping

Indeed, vaping is one of the best ways to break the habit of smoking, as smokers can still enjoy their nicotine fix and have something to hold between their fingers, without the dangers of tobacco inhalation. 

Eventually, they can then reduce the proportion of nicotine in their vape liquid, making it an even safer alternative to smoking. 

Vaping is a very popular smoking cessation tool, allowing people to break their habits slowly, as they can still puff away after a meal, at the pub door with friends, when they need to think, or during stressful times. 

  • Support groups

It is also a good idea to sign up to a support group if you know you’ll find it tough to give up smoking, as others in the same boat can help you through. 

Don’t forget to call on your family and friends for help as well, even just to talk to when you’re feeling anxious or need a distraction. 

  • Change your diet

You could even try to eat and drink different types of foods that can help you with your quest to give up smoking. 

For instance, drinking milk when you have an urge for a cigarette can reduce your craving. This is because most people say dairy products make cigarettes taste worse, so you aren’t as likely to feel tempted if you drink a big glass of milk. 

The same is true for fruits and vegetables, as they tend to worsen the taste of cigarettes, making smoking less appealing. Keep a banana or apple with you at all times, so you can munch on one whenever you fancy lighting up. 

One of the hardest habits to break is picking up a cigarette when you feel peckish, so make sure you have bags of popcorn on your person. 

“Not only will this low-calorie snack help you quit smoking by keeping your hands and mouth busy, it will also satisfy a salty craving and can help you feel full,” Everyday Health advised.

You might also want to get some cinnamon sticks, as these provide something to fidget with and chew on when you really want to smoke instead. 

It is also worth avoiding certain foods and drinks if you are serious about quitting. These include coffee, alcohol, meat, spicy and sugary foods. 

If you find it hard to avoid these when out and about, you may need to alter your social life, or your social circle, for the time being until the habit is well and truly broken.