7 Healthy Ways to Get Back in Circulation With Better Blood Flow
If there's any incentive to break a sweat at the gym, it's the promise of a more satisfying sex life. Penile health is inextricably linked to cardiovascular health and cardiovascular health to exercise.
However, men can choose from a variety of other methods to improve circulation and, potentially, their erectile function.
1. Not all vegetables are your friend
Cut down on salt. That's often the first advice you hear, and for good reason, but it's also an oversimplification. Sodium, a mineral found in salt, is essential in moderation for the human body to utilize muscles and fuel nerve impulses. In excess, sodium brings about health issues that can put a damper on your sex life.
As a mineral, sodium also occurs in plants, legumes and vegan proteins, such as tofu or tempeh, just at a fraction of what most meats naturally carry. Double your efficacy and start spicing dishes with non-salt-based seasonings, many of which possess anti-inflammatory properties.
Depending on your portions, some kinds of produce might not aid your nutritional goals. For instance, one-half cup of black olives contains 735 milligrams of sodium, or close to half the recommended daily intake for people up to age 50. A half-cup of green olives packs 1,556 mg, which slightly exceeds the suggested daily sodium requirement for a person 70 or older.
If cutting your sodium intake down to about 1,550 mg feels too ambitious initially, keep in mind the Chronic Disease Risk Reduction (CDDR) Intake puts the line at 2,300 mg a day as the maximum amount that may still reduce chronic diseases, according to Harvard Health.
An even more specific grocery list for optimal blood circulation favors anti-inflammatory, flavonoid-rich foods. Think blackberries, watermelon, spinach, oatmeal and pistachios.
2. Certain herbs deserve a cautious look
"There are a lot of herbs people use, such as ginkgo biloba, bee pollen and cayenne pepper, but studies are limited, and there are few quality controls with supplements," said Paul Thompson, M.D., a Fort Worth, Texas-based urologist and surgeon, and the chief medical officer for Launch Medical, a Los Angeles men's sexual health company. "However, garlic, fatty fish like salmon, nuts and berries are great for circulation."
A heart-healthy diet doesn't necessarily mean bland; a slice of frozen watermelon, a bowl of blackberry oatmeal or spaghetti with garlic and oil could be a treat to some people's taste buds.
3. Exercise your pelvis
Long story short, Kegel pelvic floor exercises aren't just for women and anyone can do them while zoning out during a boring meeting. Kegels involve contracting your pelvic floor muscles, which help control urination. Men should typically hold the contractions 10 times for 10 seconds each, three times a day, but pausing a stream of urine two or three times is an even simpler way to integrate pelvic strength into your routine.
While prostate surgery, other pelvic surgery, being overweight and constipation can weaken your pelvic floor, according to the United Kingdom's National Health Service, simple exercises such as knee fallouts, pelvic curls and single-leg raises augment a regular Kegel practice.
Severe cases involving incontinence or pain should not be addressed with exercise, however, but by seeking the expertise of a physician who may refer you to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic strength.
4. Nicotine and alcohol were never your friends
The wisdom on alcohol and nicotine use is what you'd expect, which is to say, they're not great for you. Unfortunately, a nightcap can prevent other nightly fun.
"Drinking too much alcohol, whether over a long period of time or even just once, can cause hormones to be released and/or the muscles in your veins to contract, causing them to constrict," Thompson said. "When your veins constrict, this can cause ED, so even just a few drinks can cause ED, at least temporarily. Nicotine works similarly to alcohol. Nicotine constricts blood vessels, which can lead to ED just as well."
Vein constriction is no good, but the opposite, vein dilation, can be achieved through hydration and even massage, according to research from the University of Illinois at Chicago published in 2014 in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
5. Stay on top of comorbidities and anxieties
"Some indicators of circulatory problems include muscle pain with activity, cold hands/feet, erectile dysfunction, numbness, and chest pain or shortness of breath," said Josh Gonzalez, M.D., a sexual health and urology specialist who runs a clinic in Los Angeles and is a sexual health advisor for sex-lube manufacturer Astroglide. "ED can actually be the first sign of undiagnosed cardiovascular disease."
Any of these symptoms—it doesn't matter if they've recently developed or have been a small annoyance you've been avoiding addressing—calls for medical consultation.
6. Sex-filled nights require sleep
Perhaps the easiest advice to follow for better cardiovascular health and circulation—yes, even easier than eating berries or flexing your sphincter during a soul-crushing work meeting—is doing something you already do but maybe should do better.
"Sleep disorders are associated with a number of cardiovascular conditions, including hypertension and heart disease, which both are associated with poorer circulation," Thompson explained.
And in case you haven't figured it out by now, poor circulation can be an erection impediment.
"Even after just one night of one to two hours of less sleep, our blood pressure increases," said Devin Burke, a sleep expert and the founder of the SleepScience Academy in Delray Beach, Florida. "Not getting enough sleep affects the hormone testosterone. Also, it has been found that men who don't get enough sleep have a 29 percent lower sperm count than those getting a full night of sleep and have significantly smaller testicles."
7. Maybe try an ancient practice
This one might be a little out there, but you could learn how to practice remote ischemic preconditioning, which is what occurs daily when observant Jewish men—until 1100 C.E., women did it, too—pray using tefillin. In the simplest terms, they pull a leather strap uncomfortably tight on their nondominant arm for 30 minutes throughout prayers.
Oxygen flow to the limb is impeded but not dangerously so, priming the heart for the next time it's deprived of oxygen—you know, like during a heart attack. The long-term benefits extend to lower blood pressure and increased blood flow, suggests one small study.
Much of the wisdom around cardiovascular health is the unavoidable advice we always hear, but it's worth paying attention to the fine print. You might just find a great excuse to take a nap.