Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or sustain a penile erection sufficient for satisfactory male sexual performance (Heidelbaugh 2010; McVary 2007). The condition affects up to 30 million American men, and is typically age-dependent (Berookhim 2011; Cellerino 2005; Sadeghi-Nejad 2007). Erectile dysfunction can cause substantial emotional distress by negatively impacting intimate relationships, self-esteem, and overall quality of life (Heidelbaugh 2010; Kolodny 2011; Segal 2012).
Several pharmacologic treatments for erectile dysfunction are available (eg, Viagra® and Cialis®), but these medications provide only temporary benefits and may cause minor to severe side effects such as headache, indigestion, visual disturbances, and even blindness (Stroberg 2006; Rashid 2005; Burnett 2011; Wolfe 2005).
The underlying physiology of erectile function is tied very closely to cardiovascular health. Therefore, men who wish to perform at their sexual peak must take steps to optimize their blood vessel health (Gandaglia 2012; Garcia-Cruz 2012; Ewane 2012). Studies show that improving cardiovascular risk factors via healthy lifestyle modifications and pharmacologic treatment can significantly improve male sexual function (Gupta 2011).
This protocol describes the biology of penile erection and highlights the link between cardiovascular disease and sexual function in men. Medications to temporarily improve erectile function will be discussed, as will integrative strategies for reducing cardiovascular risk and improving overall male sexual function through healthy lifestyle choices, pharmaceutical drugs, and the use of scientifically studied natural compounds.