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3 July 2006
Exercise Key To Avoiding Impotence
by George Atkinson

A new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has established that, perhaps unsurprisingly, obesity and smoking have strong links to a greater risk of erectile dysfunction. But they also found that regular physical activity can have a significant impact on lowering this risk. While studies in the past have hinted at the link between erectile dysfunction and smoking, this is the first large-scale study to wrap-in factors like obesity, alcohol and a sedentary lifestyle. The full study was published in The Journal of Urology.

Led by HSPH's Constance Bacon, the researchers surveyed more than 22,000 men between the ages of 40 and 75 who reported good or very good erectile function prior to 1986. Among those participants, 18 percent reported the onset of erectile dysfunction between 1986 and 2000.

The results showed that both smoking and obesity were associated with a higher risk of the development of erectile dysfunction among previously healthy men.

But the researchers added that regular physical activity was shown to significantly lower erectile dysfunction risk. "We found a 2.5-fold difference in risk of erectile dysfunction when we compared obese men who did little exercise with men who were not overweight and averaged 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day. For men younger than 55, there was a 4-fold difference in risk for the same comparison," said co-researcher Eric Rimm. Interestingly, the researchers also noted that alcohol consumption did not increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.

Based on these results, the researchers suggest that erectile dysfunction and coronary heart disease may share many of the same risk factors. Rimm said the results should encourage men to follow a more healthy lifestyle. "Many men may choose not to change to a healthier lifestyle, which includes exercise and a prudent diet, because they perceive heart disease as something that may only develop decades in the future. Hopefully, these results will help to motivate men to adopt a more active lifestyle to avoid a problem which may be more immediate."

Based on material from the Harvard School of Public Health

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