Performance problems are nothing to be ashamed of – almost all men are affected at some stage. Understanding the issues involved may help you make some changes and get your mojo back.
Issues with men’s sexual performance are more common than most people realise.
Erectile dysfunction (ED, the inability to achieve or sustain an erection) is experienced by around half of all men in their 40s, 50s and 60s, and increases to nearly 60 per cent of those in their 70s, many of whom experience severe erectile problems.
Many others experience low libido (decreased levels of sexual arousal, interest and desire), while up to 31 per cent of Australian men experience premature ejaculation, mostly on an infrequent or occasional basis.
In many instances, these issues are simply a reflection of the normal variations that everyone experiences in their sex lives from time to time.
However, if sexual performance problems are ongoing or persistent, it’s important to have a frank conversation with your healthcare professional, as they may be indicative of underlying health issues.
For example, ED is commonly a consequence of blood vessel damage (also known as endothelial dysfunction), and consequently is sometimes an early indicator of cardiovascular disease. This phenomenon occurs because the narrow blood vessels of the penis are particularly vulnerable to the effects of plaque in the arteries, which can inhibit blood flow to the area, interfering with the ability to form or sustain an erection.
Declining testosterone levels are also common in men who are experiencing reduced sexual performance, especially as they get older, and in particular may lead to lowered libido.
Reduced testosterone levels may also have consequences that are not sexual in nature, including fatigue, poor concentration, reduced feelings of vitality, and declining strength, muscle mass and bone mineral density.
Lifestyle changes to support your sexual health
Many of the diet and lifestyle habits that are known to have negative effects on your blood vessels also have strong links to erectile dysfunction. So, the bad news is that if you’re overweight, a smoker, drink to excess or have issues with high blood sugar, blood lipids (eg. cholesterol) or blood pressure, it’s increasingly likely that your sexual performance will decline as you get older.
However, research suggests that over time, adopting healthier habits can help to improve sexual performance while simultaneously reducing your risk of heart and blood vessel disease.
For example, stopping smoking may lead to improvements in erectile function of up to 25 per cent after just one year. Increasing physical activity levels and losing weight may help to turn things around for those who are sedentary and/or overweight, and counselling may be beneficial for men experiencing mood problems, chronic stress or relationship difficulties associated with ED.
Natural ways to support testosterone levels
Fenugreek has traditionally been regarded as an aphrodisiac and used to support men’s libido, and in particular has a long history of use as a remedy for low sexual potency in traditional Arabic medicine.
More recently, research suggests that when taken as a standardised extract called Testofen® fenugreek’s traditional reputation for addressing low libido may be the result of its ability to help maintain testosterone levels in healthy ageing men.
For example, research published in the medical journal The Aging Male earlier this year compared the effects of Testofen®with those of a placebo supplement.
In this randomised, double-blind, clinical study, 120 healthy men aged between 43 and 70 took either Testofen® or a placebo supplement for 12 weeks.
At the end of the study, the men who had taken the fenugreek supplement reported significantly increased levels of sexual arousal and sexual drive, plus more frequent erections (from an average of one per week at the start of the study, to two or three per week by the end) and intercourse (from an average of once per month at the start of the study to almost weekly by the end).
They also reported improvements in general vitality and psychological well-being.
At the same time, test results showed that their levels of both total testosterone and free (ie. bioavailable) testosterone had increased slightly but significantly.
From a nutritional perspective, zinc is vital to men’s reproductive health. It’s important for the healthy production of sex hormones, and in particular plays an important role in maintaining both serum testosterone levels and the motility (movement) of the sperm.
Reference: Rao A, et al. The Aging Male 2016;19(2):134-42