Here’s one fact no one can really disagree on: sex is an important part of life. Thanks to external genitalia, men may start thinking about sex before puberty ever hits, and it’s a primal thought until their dying breath. Sexual health (SH), then, is an important part of living a healthy life. But is SH just the hormone-driven function humans optimize to continue the species, or it is something more? Is penis health the only real necessity there? What else does it give to men, and how does SH impact them? Are libido and erectile function the only ingredients needed to be sexually healthy, or is there more to it? Is SH defined by the absence of erectile dysfunction (ED)? Let’s examine what SH is and just how complex it really is.
What Is Sexual Health(SH)?
SH is a state of well-being, or general health, that empowers a man to fully enjoy and participate in sexual activity. This includes several factors such as physical, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors. SH does not exclusively mean penis health, which is an important part of SH, but definitely not the only part of it.
How Physical Health Influences Sexual Health(SH)
Let’s begin with inarguably the biggest influencer on SH, physical health. There are limitless factors physically that can inhibit a man’s sexual function; however, there are also limitless strategies to enhance it.
Here are just a few of the disease states that can negatively impact a man’s SH:
1) Heart Disease – Since erections are fueled by blood flow, those diseases that impede it, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and heart disease in general, can put an end to frisky Friday nights.
2) Obesity – Obesity usually runs hand-in-hand with heart disease and diabetes, the boner killers of the current age. Obesity can also affect stamina and ability as well as have psychological impacts that’ll be discussed in the next section. It can also decrease a man’s fertility.
3) Diabetes – Men who have type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of ED due to the nerve and blood vessel damage the disease causes. As a result, erections are more difficult to get and maintain.
4) Cancer – Prostate and testicular cancers can cause swelling that makes getting an erection difficult or painful. Also, some medications used to treat the cancers can cause ED. Testicular cancer in particular can lead to infertility if one or both testicles requires removal.
5) Peyronie’s Disease – Men who experience high amounts of repeated penile trauma will have scar tissue in the penis. If that scar tissue builds up too much, it will cause a painful bend in the penis. If the bend is 15 percent or greater, the man might have Peyronie’s. This can render a man unable to have an erection or it just may be too painful to have one and/or enjoy intercourse.
6) Low Testosterone – As men age, their testosterone levels dip, which can cause them to experience reduced libido in addition to reduced sperm count. A test can easily show if testosterone is low.
How Psychological Health Influences Sexual Health(SH)
Some men might not realize just how much psychological or mental health can impact SH. Things like stress, anxiety, and depression can all greatly impact how a man functions sexually, but it’s important to note that every man is different.
Depression can affect a man’s libido. He may not want sex because he’s depressed. He may feel bad about himself, how he looks, or how he thinks he performs sexually. Some medications used to treat depression can also cause a man to lose his erection because they modify hormone levels. Obesity has also been linked to depression due to delicate self-esteem and self-confidence issues. Thankfully, there are many medication options, so a man doesn’t have to choose between happiness and sex.
Anxiety, be it general or specific, can also compromise a man’s SH. He may have performance anxiety, which results in an inability to get an erection, or he may prematurely ejaculate. Often, talk therapy and medication can be helpful. Stress also has similar effects on a man’s SH, which can include a lower libido but can also influence a higher libido when sex is used as the only outlet for stress release. Interpersonal relations also greatly impact mental health, which, in turn, impacts SH.
How to Improve Sexual Health
In addition to regular checkups, a healthy diet, and exercise, men should employ a number of other strategies to ensure a clean bill of sexual health. Be sure to stay aware of any new physical bumps, lumps, or pains. Always have in-depth pre-sex talks with new and existing partners. Create and maintain healthy social relationships to create a support circle of fun, caring, and informed friends.