Thanks to the advent of smartphones and the internet, men may find themselves even more under pressure to adapt to society’s expectation of what life should look like. Technology has connected us to one another in a way generations before could never have imagined. In medicine and science, we’re making the impossible happen as stem cell research and robotics gain traction.
There’s also a tremendous downside to these constant updates. The flood of images from social media outlets showcases everything we think we need to have: the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect friends, the perfect career, the perfect sex life.
But it doesn’t always work out that way.
Even without social media in our reality, thanks to email and WhatsApp, work hours are never-ending
We’re also often underpaid. And if we’re not underpaid, we’re likely overworked. We find less and less time to enjoy hobbies, family, eating healthy, and exercising. Instead, we spend more time sedentary in front of our computer or our phone or tablet. This can lead to more time comparing — and less time living.
Needless to say, this shift in values and use of time hasn’t been good for the sex lives of many of my patients — especially younger men who are more active on social media.
I personally see many men who come in with symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED) that are too young to be experiencing this condition so early in their life. On top of that, they have none of the other risk factors associated with ED, such as diabetes or lifestyle-related risks such as cigarette smoking, lack of exercise, or obesity.
In one study, under 40 sought medical treatment for ED, with half reporting they had severe ED.
Many of them want me to immediately prescribe medications, thinking that will fix the problem — but that’s only a temporary solution.
That’s not to say that I don’t prescribe medications, of course I do, but I believe — and science supports my belief — that we have to treat ED with a holistic approach, addressing not only the symptoms but also the root cause of the problem.
I treat patients on the personal, intellectual, and physical level
We discuss what life is like at home and at work.
I ask them about their hobbies and whether they do physical exercise. Often, they admit to me that they’re stressed at work, no longer have time for themselves or their hobbies, and don’t do any physical exercise.
Many of my patients also report that ED is a major cause of stress at home and in their intimate relationships. They develop performance anxiety and the problem becomes cyclical.
Here’s my basic treatment plan
Six rules to follow
- Quit smoking.
- Do moderate physical activity for one hour at least three times a week. This includes both cardio and weightlifting. For example: Cycle, swim, or walk briskly for 25 minutes at a moderate pace and then lift weights and stretch. Once you find that your exercise routine is easy, increase the difficulty and don’t let yourself plateau.
- Maintain a healthy weight. This could happen naturally following moderate physical activity as advised above. Remember to keep challenging yourself and increase the difficulty of your exercise routine.
- Find time for yourself and find a hobby or any activity where you can be mentally present and keep your mind off work and family life for a while.
- Consider seeing a psychologist to help you sort out difficulties you may be having at work, home, economically, etc.
- Get off social media. People put the version of themselves out there that they want to broadcast — not reality. Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on the positive aspects of your own life. This also frees up time for exercise or another activity.
I try to keep dietary guidelines basic. I tell my patients they need to eat considerably less animal fat and more fruit, legumes, whole grains, and vegetables.
In order to keep track of eating without having to document every meal, I suggest they aim for vegetarian meals during the week and allow red and leaner white meats on the weekends, in moderation.
If you or your partner is experiencing ED, know that there are a number of solutions — many of which can be achieved with little to no medication. Nevertheless, it can be an uncomfortable problem to talk about openly.
Don’t be afraid to speak with a urologist about this condition. It’s what we do and it could help get to the root of your concerns. It might even strengthen your relationship with yourself and your partner.
Marcos Del Rosario, MD, is a Mexican urologist certified by the Mexican National Council of Urology. He lives and works in Campeche, Mexico. He’s a graduate of the Anáhuac University in Mexico City (Universidad Anáhuac México) and completed his residency in urology at the General Hospital of Mexico (Hospital General de Mexico, HGM), one of the most important research and teaching hospitals in the country.