Many men in their teens and 20s tend to think they’ll always be sexually vigorous, but after 40 the penis gradually starts to show the first signs of aging. Some changes — such as loss of penile sensitivity, decrease in size and longer refractory periods — are, for the most part, irreversible. But that doesn’t mean men over 40 are powerless when it comes to retaining their sexual potency and vitality. This article looks at how drinking less alcohol, doing aerobic exercise, eating smarter and keeping an eye on testosterone levels can help maintain a vigorous sex life after 40.
Drink Less Alcohol
Consuming too much alcohol has a negative effect on the body. It can damage important organs such as the liver and the kidneys, cause several types of cancer, and lead to weight gain. It can also have an adverse effect on the penis, and therefore on sexual enjoyment.
While it is true that in young men moderate alcohol consumption removes inhibitions, temporarily increases libido and delays orgasm (a blessing for those who suffer from premature ejaculation), it can make sex impossible for men over 40. Because erections and orgasms become increasingly unreliable as men age, they need all the help they can get to keep their sensations sharp.
More worrying than temporary erectile dysfunction is the fact that long-term alcohol abuse has at least four damaging effects on the penis. First, alcohol begins to interfere with the nervous system pathways between the brain and the penis; second, it damages the nerves in the penis; third, it has an effect on testosterone levels which are crucial for libido; and fourth, it can damage sperm-producing cells which can cause the testicles to shrink.
A laboratory experiment involving young and old rats had a clear outcome: rats that were ‘exercised’ more frequently had increased penile neurotransmitters, and therefore improved erections, compared to the rats that were more sedentary.
There’s little reason to believe exercise has a different effect on the human penis. In fact, five studies over a 40-year period and involving 385 men showed aerobic exercise had a ‘significant effect’ on erectile function. The message is clear: if you want your erections to last longer as you age, get on a treadmill as soon as possible.
If you want to stay in shape after 40, you’ll have to do more than you did to lose weight in your 20s and 30s. As you age, your metabolism slows so shedding weight requires far more effort. Diet is important because eating fatty, processed food leads to blood flow problems (in a process known as atherosclerosis — the hardening of the arteries) which, apart from causing heart attacks, mean the penis won’t get unrestricted blood flow in order to keep your erections strong.
Vascular disease is also blamed for the fact that erections become less potent as men age. Between the ages of 30 and 50, many men will notice a slight decline in the angle of their erections (this decline usually accelerates after 50). Research shows that at 30, a man can expect his erection to be 20 degrees above horizontal; by the time he’s 40 that elevation is reduced to only one degree.
In order to stave off vascular disease, many experts recommend a Mediterranean diet incorporating fish, nuts, olive oil and an array of fruits and vegetables. This diet also includes red wine, although only in moderation. Also avoid excessive salt intake, keep an eye your blood pressure, and if you’re a smoker, give up the habit.
Several types of foods have been linked to improved desire. One is asparagus, packed with folate which helps increase the production of desire-boosting histamine in both men and women. Another sex-friendly food is the avocado which contains minerals, monounsaturated fats and Vitamin B6, a known libido-enhancer.
Then there’s the banana, high in the bromelain enzyme which plays a role in regulating sexual hormones. Finally there’s garlic; while this member of the onion family may not provide you with the sweetest breath, it nonetheless contains allicin, a compound that thins the blood and is therefore helpful for blood flow to the penis.?
Watch Your Testosterone Levels
After a man hits his sexual peak at 30, his testosterone levels start to fall by between 1 and 1.5% a year. This has an important effect on his desire because testosterone is the male sex hormone that controls the development of sexual traits. The results of this cumulative drop may become particularly noticeable after 40.
Falling testosterone takes libido down with it, although the effect varies from man to man. Fortunately, there are ways to counteract the fall in testosterone: get at least seven or eight hours’ sleep per night, maintain muscle mass by weightlifting and eat protein-rich foods such as fish and other white meat.