Stuck in Neutral

Health tips that only take 10-minutes of your time? Next month’s health column will give you practical, easy ways to make improvements in your diet, fitness and overall physical health. Top experts in the field weigh in with their advice.

I’m looking for tips from you! Are there things you do to keep yourself fit such as choosing healthier foods, walking around the truck stop, lifting weights in the cab? No tips are too small for next month’s column.

E-mail me, [email protected] and tell me what you do to stay in shape.

Even though television is full of ads promising that certain drugs will cure chronic impotence, it’s still a topic most men are hesitant to talk about. Yet more than half of men over 40 report difficulty with erections.

Owner-operators are more at risk than the general population, and not just because so many are over 40. Certain medical conditions common to truckers – notably diabetes, obesity and hypertension – can cause erectile dysfunction, says Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Men with these same conditions may be twice as likely to develop low testosterone, and they “also suffer from fatigue, low libido, depression, reduced muscle mass and decreased bone density,” Bar-Chama says. Truckers with type 2 diabetes who also have ED have an eightfold risk of having undiagnosed heart disease.

ED does not necessarily mean a lack of sexual desire. About 80 percent of erection problems in men 50 years or older are caused by physical problems, such as:

  • Surgery that interferes with nerve impulse or blood flow to the penis.
  • Vascular problems that prevent blood from filling the penis or remaining there long enough to maintain an erection.
  • Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or low HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
  • Neurological problems that interfere with arousal signals from the brain.
  • Hormonal factors, such as low testosterone.
  • Side effects of medication, such as drugs taken for hypertension, depression and blood pressure.
  • Smoking, alcohol abuse or illegal drug use.
  • Of course, psychological causes can also interfere with normal sexual arousal. Anxiety, grief and stress are the most likely culprits in men under the age of 40.

    The best-known ED treatment these days is oral medication. The most popular drugs are Viagra (Sildenafil), Cialis (Tadalafil) and Levitra (Vardenafil). All three enhance the effects of nitric oxide, which increases blood flow to the penis. A thorough evaluation is necessary to rule out risk factors for serious adverse reactions. So be sure to see your doctor for a prescription and beware of any such medication that is too easily accessible over the Internet.

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    There are other treatments, too: needle injection therapy, self-administered intra-urethral therapy, hormone replacement therapy, vacuum devices, vascular surgery, penile implants and counseling. A urologist can discuss these with you in more detail.

    Addressing erectile dysfunction
    Don’t assume one episode of erectile dysfunction spells disaster for your health or your sex life. However, you should seek help if the problem persists, advises Dr. Michael Levine, a urologist from Lake Success, N.Y.

    “It can be an embarrassing subject for some men, which is why I encourage their partners to be supportive for the best possible results,” he says. “There’s so much that can be done, from diet and lifestyle changes to safe and effective medications like Viagra.”

    Levine says almost all men with ED will be able to resume a normal sex life if they seek the appropriate medical attention.

    Some of the best preventive steps for erectile dysfunction are also good for better physical and mental health in general:

    • Limit the use of drugs and alcohol. Consume no more than two drinks before sex.
    • Stop smoking.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Get enough sleep.
    • Reduce stress.
    • See your doctor regularly.

    To learn more on your own, check these websites:

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