‘Hey guys, what’s the key to good sex?’

What’s the key to a healthy sex life? The same things that are good for a man’s heart, according to new research.

We’ve heard it all before: good heart health means maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and getting regular exercise. But these same things may all reduce the risk of developing erectile dysfunction (ED), according to a US study that followed more than 22,000 men for 14 years.

The findings, published recently in the Journal of Urology, helped to confirm earlier evidence linking lifestyle choices to risk of ED.

The findings may also give men added incentive to make some changes for the better, said study co-author Dr. Eric B. Rimm of the Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston.

The study found that:

* Men who were obese at the start of the study were 90 per cent more likely to develop ED that normal-weight men, and;

* Smokers had a 50 per cent greater risk of erectile dysfunction than non-smokers.

Regular exercise, on the other hand, appeared to protect men against erectile problems. Participants who reported the highest exercise levels at the study’s stat were 30 per cent less likely than their inactive peers to develop ED.

While erectile problems were once thought to be largely psychological, it has become clear that heart disease and ED share many of the same risk factors, Rimm said.

Anything that impairs blood vessel function and blood flow can affect erectile function, and it’s known that some of the medical conditions that raise the risk of heart disease – like high blood pressure and diabetes – can also lead to ED.

Similarly, the lifestyle choices that affect cardiovascular health, like smoking and exercise habits, influence ED risk.

This knowledge may nudge more men to make lifestyle changes, Rimm said, since heart disease can seem a distant risk, but erectile problems may be more immediate.

It’s never too late: eating right and exercising can help cut risk of heart problems by 87 per cent
Even men who take medication for high blood pressure or cholesterol can dramatically cut their risk of heart disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle, according to another study.

Researchers said that middle-aged men on these medications can reduce their chances of heart problems by 57 per cent by making the following lifestyle choices:

* Eating right
* Not smoking
* Drinking in moderation
* Maintaining a healthy weight
* Exercising regularly

And for those who do not take drugs, the news is even better: adopting these lifestyle choices can cut their risk of heart ailments by 87 per cent.

“This shows there’s no substitute for a healthy lifestyle,” said Stephanie Chiuve, lead author of the study to be published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study tracked 43,000 men between 40 and 75 who were free of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions when the study began in 1986. They completed biannual questionnaires and researchers used the data to search for links between heart disease and lifestyle habits.

The benefits of the healthy habits were apparent even if they were adopted gradually over time. “In other words, it’s never too late to change,” said Chiuve. “You can still achieve benefits if you make changes in middle age or later in life.”

Men with the lowest risk of heart disease were those who practiced all five healthy habits, but not smoking alone reduced the risk of heart problems by 50 percent, she said.

Heart healthy = brain smart?
And if good sex and a healthy heart aren’t enough incentive to good nutrition and regular exercise, how about staying sharper mentally? A recent French study found that being overweight actually makes you dumber.

The study, published recently in Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that middle aged adults with high body mass index (BMI) scored lower on cognitive tests than their slimmer peers.

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