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No one wants to deal with an unhealthy penis. Unfortunately, though, many penises are not as healthy as they could be, due to the vast amount of things that can have a negative impact on penile health.

What is fortunate, however, is that many of the things that can impact your penile health are known to science, and there are always a fair number of steps you can take to get the state of your member back to exactly where you want it.

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the factors that negatively affect the health of your penis.

Lots of them are things that negatively affect your health in general. After that, we'll list the many tips we've compiled that can help keep your penis healthy, regardless of whether you're dealing with erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or anything else.

It's never too late to improve the health of your penis, but the earlier you start making the right changes, the quicker and easier you'll see results. Let's get right into it then!

What factors influence penis health?

1. Genetics

Like every element of your physical health, genetics definitely play a part. Your DNA can mean you're more likely to inherit certain penile health conditions, potentially including Peyronie's disease (in which scar tissue causes excessive bending), hypospadias (where the end of the urethra develops underneath the penis as opposed to at the tip), and even micropenis - though micropenis doesn't always require treatment. Genetics can also predispose you to artery diseases as well as digestive and kidney diseases that can affect penis health as well.

2. Age

As you get older, your testosterone levels will start to decrease. While this doesn't always cause problems, depending on how much your levels drop, your reduced testosterone could lead to lower penile sensitivity, lower sex drive, less powerful orgasms, and even erectile dysfunction - though this is more common if you have other risks of ED.

3. Lifestyle

Aspects of your lifestyle, whether they're by choice or not, can affect your penile health and sex life. Alcohol consumption can affect fertility and smoking can contribute to ED and low sex drive. Obesity can also contribute to erectile dysfunction and impotence, though the link is not always direct.

Your diet and exercise can contribute to issues as they help prevent obesity and improve your circulation. Risky sexual behavior such as not using condoms or getting STI tests can increase your risk of contracting infections.

4. Medications

Some medicines include erectile dysfunction as potential side effects, including antidepressants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, prescription sleeping pills, and even certain cancer medications, such as those used for men with prostate cancer, and chemotherapy drugs. Most of the time, symptoms cease when you stop taking the medication, but you may need to switch medication if you're having a lot of issues.

5. Cancer

Cancer can affect penile health in numerous ways. As we've already mentioned, certain cancer treatments can increase your risk of erectile dysfunction, but you can also get cancer on your penis.

Penile cancers generally affect your foreskin or your glans. It's a rare cancer that usually affects men aged 50 or over. Symptoms include growths, sores, or rashes, bleeding from the penis or blood under the foreskin, changes in skin color, and discharge, as well as other cancer symptoms such as lumps, tiredness, and weight loss.

According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year survival rate for localized penile cancer is 79% - it's quite treatable if caught early.

6. Penis conditions

Health conditions can affect penis health in a variety of ways. While erectile dysfunction makes it difficult for men to achieve and maintain an erection, genital herpes causes painful sores, and penis disorders like phimosis can make it difficult to keep the head of your penis clean.

Even conditions that aren't strictly related to your penis can have an impact; kidney disease, for instance, can cause narrowing in your arteries that results in penis problems like being unable to achieve an erection. Artery disease can have the same effect.

7. Testosterone levels

Severely reduced testosterone has been linked to ED - but not so much if you only have moderately reduced testosterone levels. Other hormone abnormalities have also been linked to ED, such as both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

8. Body weight

Though the links aren't always direct, there are established connections between body weight and penile health concerns. Obesity has been seen to contribute to erectile dysfunction, as well as lower-quality semen production.

However, being underweight has also been (somewhat tenuously) linked to erectile dysfunction. Some underweight men have reduced testosterone, and some have poor circulation, both of which can contribute to ED, but the link is not as strong as with obesity.

9. Blood pressure

High blood pressure affects penis health, as the condition damages the blood vessels and arteries that are essential for getting hard. The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) reports that men with high blood pressure are around twice as likely to develop erectile dysfunction as men without it.

Unfortunately, some blood pressure medications can also cause erectile dysfunction, to the degree that ED is more common in men who have been treated for their high blood pressure. These problems can sometimes be reversed if your blood pressure lowers enough for you to be able to stop taking the medicine.

Tips for Improving Penile Health

1. Use protection when you have sex

Responsible, safe sex is the best way to avoid the plethora of penis problems that are the direct result of sexually transmitted infections. Condoms are a vital part of safe sex - you should be using them whenever you can, especially if you sleep with a variety of sexual partners.

Condoms help protect you from receiving an STI, and they also prevent you from passing STIs on to a partner, both of which are very important! Getting tested is also a vital way of preventing STIs, but unfortunately, there are always going to be cases where people are unsure - condoms are key in these situations.


How to:

Condoms are a nice and easy way of making your sex more safe. They're often cheap and readily available in stores such as pharmacies and online. There are lots of varieties to choose from, making them fun to use as well.

You put them on by, once out of the wrapper, squeezing the tip to remove any air inside the condom, and then putting it over the tip of your erect penis and rolling it down the shaft to the base. If you get any semen or precum on the outside, throw it away and use a new one - don't risk it.

2. Clean it properly and regularly

Cleaning your penis is another way to prevent nasty infections that can be caused, for example, by a build-up of bacteria underneath your foreskin. Under the foreskin isn't the only place you need to wash though - wash your shaft, your balls, the skin between your legs and balls, and wash your pubic hair. In addition to keeping bacteria away, you'll be keeping away bad smells!

How to:

We'd recommend washing all the areas we listed above, except under your foreskin, with warm water and some gentle soap that will go easy on the sensitive skin. This is easily done as part of your regular showering routine.

When it comes to washing beneath the foreskin (if you have one) you'll need to be a little more careful, as the skin is particularly sensitive.

Once you've gently pulled back your foreskin, clean your glans and foreskin with some water.

If you really want to use soap, keep it nice and gentle - water should do in most cases. Take care not to scrub, as this can hurt!

3. Stop drinking alcohol

Studies have shown that alcohol use can lead to a variety of sexual dysfunctions, including premature ejaculation, low libido, and ED. In one particular study, 72% of participants (all alcohol dependent men) were found to have one or more sexual dysfunction.

The above study found that the amount of alcohol consumed was directly proportional to the risk of developing some sort of sexual dysfunction. This is also true in the short-term; "whiskey dick" is the colloquial term for temporary alcohol-induced ED, or other sexual dysfunction. Essentially, alcohol and sex don't mix, but drinking less reduces your risk of running into issues.


How to:

Stopping drinking alcohol isn't an easy task, especially if you're dependent. Recovering from alcoholism is a topic slightly beyond the scope of this article, but we can share some tips on how to cut down on your consumption, either to nothing at all, or to the less than 2 drinks or less per day recommended by the CDC.

The CDC recommends several strategies to reduce your alcohol intake. These strategies include setting limits to how many days you drink alcohol and how many drinks you have on these days, using apps to track the number of drinks you consume, managing "triggers" that can result in you drinking more than you want, and finding support from friends, family, healthcare professionals, or support groups.

4. Quit smoking

Smoking wreaks havoc on your health, and that includes the health of your penis. Smoking, and the associated increase in blood pressure, can damage blood vessels and arteries - this includes those that allow you to achieve an erection.

Additionally, nicotine can actually narrow blood vessels, which can cause difficulty getting and maintaining erections even in the short term.

As such, smoking for an extended period of time can increase your risk of both short-term and long-term erectile dysfunction and impotence. It can also decrease your sex drive.

Luckily, the study we linked above also shows that stopping smoking can have a positive effect on the strength of your erections, and can even reverse some of the reduction in erectile quality and function.


How to:

As any ex-smoker can tell you, smoking is one of the hardest habits to break. Fortunately, these days there are plenty of tools at your disposal to help. Products containing nicotine but not tobacco can help to wean you off cigarettes by giving you a quick hit of their most addictive substance - you can buy nicotine gum, patches, and inhalers to help you.

On a psychological level, many people also find it helpful to utilise apps that keep track of your smoking sobriety for encouragement, especially if you've chosen to go cold turkey and suddenly quit smoking altogether. Many people also find success in joining support groups where you can help and encourage - and receive help and encouragement from - other smokers who are trying to quit.

5. Engage in physical exercise

Just as lack of exercise can have a negative effect on your penile health, contributing to obesity and circulatory issues, engaging in more physical exercise can have a positive impact on your penile health. This is especially true if you're currently in a position where your lifestyle is affecting your penis.

Regular aerobic exercise has been found to be a low-risk, medicine-free treatment for men who suffer from erectile dysfunction. It was found to be effective in men with mild, moderate, and severe ED, so if you do struggle with the issue, definitely try giving increased exercise a go.

How to:

Starting to exercise can be daunting, but you don't need to immediately jump to running marathons or power-lifting at the gym. If you're looking to increase your amount of aerobic exercise, some of the best activities to try are walking (briskly), cycling, or swimming. There are also lots of exercise routines that you can find online on sites such as YouTube for free.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. While this sounds like a lot, the minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week only comes out to around 21 minutes per day, which could be accomplished in a single walk.

Fitting exercise into your existing routines, such as during your lunch break, is a good way to create and stick to a decent regime.

If you have a health condition that limits your physical activity, you may need to go a little more slowly and gently, but any increase in activity is good. If you really struggle, it can help to stick to a healthcare provider, or others who are in your situation.

6. Get vaccinated

Human Pappillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that can cause penile issues such as genital warts, and can cause cervical cancer in women. Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause erectile dysfunction and urinary tract issues. What both these viruses have in common is that, fortunately, you can get vaccinated against them.

Getting vaccinated against both of these viruses is a good way to ensure your and your partner's protection.

Wearing a condom can reduce the risk of contracting these viruses, and can sometimes prevent a Hep B infection, but this isn't the level of protection that you really want. The vaccines for both of these viruses are much more effective, so we'd recommend getting them if you haven't already.

How to:

Both of these vaccines are often available at doctor's offices as well as local health clinics and departments. The HPV vaccine is sometimes given at health centers based in schools. You'll need to ask for a referral if your local doctors or healthcare providers do not stock the vaccine, but you shouldn't have any trouble getting one. If you're unsure, contact your state's health department - they'll point you in the right direction.

7. Keep a healthy body weight

Bodyweight, and the health conditions that are associated with being both overweight and underweight, can affect your penis health. Both can lead to circulatory issues and lower testosterone which can contribute to erectile dysfunction (especially if you have other risk factors) and obesity can also reduce the quality of your semen.

While these links aren't always direct - as being overweight and underweight can both come with physical and mental stresses that can affect your general health in various ways - current research indicates that for your penis to be in the best health, the rest of your body should be too, which often goes hand in hand with maintaining a healthy weight.

How to:

Lots of advice around losing and gaining weight involves counting calories. While it's true that the if you consume more calories than you burn you will gain weight, and if you burn more calories than you consume you will lose weight, getting super granular with your calories can encourage unhealthy thinking patterns which can result in eating disorders that will do you much more harm than good.

If counting calories works for you that's great, but if you're worried about becoming obsessed, instead just focus on consuming more whole foods that are nutritious such as fruits and vegetables, and fewer foods with less nutritional value such as candy and chocolate.

Moderation is key, and you need to make sure you're still consuming enough calories to function whether you're over or underweight.

Of course, another way to burn calories if you're overweight is through exercise. Unless you're exercising vigorously for multiple hours per day you will probably lose fewer calories than you would through changing your diet, exercise has many other benefits, such as improving cardiac health, and can be a great help if you're slowly changing your eating habits.

If you're underweight and trying to gain a few pounds, focus on more calorie-dense foods with fats, carbs, and proteins. Incorporating more of these foods into a balanced diet with other nutritious foods will help you gain weight, but once again - moderation is key. There are no bad foods - just foods that can be bad if you eat too much or too little.

8. Make sure you keep hydrated

Hydration is extremely important in allowing all your body's complex systems to work together in harmony. These systems include those responsible for your erections, as being dehydrated can affect both your blood, and the sensitivity of the nerves which surround your penis, both of which play a large part in achieving and maintaining erections. Dehydration can cause the blood vessels in your body to shrink, increasing your blood pressure. Even in the short-term, increased blood pressure can affect both how well blood flows around your body, and your sex drive - two things that can result in erectile dysfunction.

How to:

Staying hydrated sounds simple - just make sure you're drinking enough water. However, depending on your habits, this can be easier said than done, particularly if you've been chronically dehydrated for a while.

The NHS in the UK recommends you drink at least 6 to 8 mugs of water per day - around 2 to 2.5 litres. This needs to increase if you're active or if you live in a hot climate to account for the water you sweat out.

Staying hydrated sounds simple - just make sure you're drinking enough water.

If you struggle to remember to drink this much water, we'd recommend carrying a water bottle with you wherever you go - you can even get large bottles that fit your recommended daily amount.

If you don't want to lug around a heavy bottle, though, it can be useful to set reminders or timers on your phone. Buying some flavored or sparkling water can also make you more likely to drink it if you don't care for the taste of plain water. Additionally, you can increase your intake of foods with high water content such as fruits like watermelons, oranges, strawberries, and peaches.

9. Maintain a good diet

Diet is something that can make a big difference in penile health, and not just because a balanced diet can help you maintain a healthy body weight. The mediterranean diet, which includes lots of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, as well as a healthy helping of olive oil, has been shown to be extremely beneficial to overall health as it helps in reducing inflammation, improving circulation, and preventing obesity.

Diagram of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid


All of those properties aren't just beneficial for your body as a whole - they can help boost penile health and erection quality too, as we've discussed throughout this article. However, there are also several specific foods with which you can boost your penile health simply by incorporating them into your current diet.

How to:

Maintaining a good diet can be hard, especially with so much readily available and cheap fast food which, while still fuel for your body, is not necessarily the most nutritious, filling, or low in calories. You don't need to flat-out avoid the foods you enjoy to maintain a good diet though. It's easier to switch out certain foods for others (such as switching out regular sodas for diet sodas, or full-fat cheese to low-fat cheese) and increase your intake of whole foods like fruits.

Above we also mentioned there are certain foods you can specifically seek out to boost your penile health - here are a few of them:

FOOD 

WHY IS IT GOOD FOR PENILE HEALTH

Spinach

Contains folic acid and magnesium which boosts blood flow and may boost testosterone

Foods high in protein such as poultry, fish, and eggs

Contain amino acids that help relax blood vessels and boost arousal and energy

Avocados

Contain vitamin E and zinc which can improve sperm quality and may boost testosterone

Coffee

Foods containing caffeine can boost circulation, improving erection quality

Tomatoes

Contain antioxidants called carotenoids which can improve semen quality

    10. Try pelvic floor exercises

    Kegels are an exercise that engages your pelvic floor, which, among supporting your bladder and bowels, can positively impact your penile health. There are actually a variety of ways that kegels can affect the health of your penis, and improve sexual function - here's a quick rundown:

    • They can help with ED and boost erection strength due to how they strengthen the muscle that allows blood into the penis - the bulbocavernosus muscle
    • They can help with milder cases of premature ejaculation as they can assist in developing greater control over when you orgasm
    • Strengthening your pelvic floor can help prevent stress incontinence, a condition where urine can leak out after actions including sneezing and even just coughing
    • Anecdotally, kegels can also boost the strength of your orgasm - try doing a few kegels before you blow your load as they can help delay your climax and make it all the more intense when you finally decide to cum


    How to:

    Performing kegels isn't too difficult, thankfully. While you can perform them whenever, when you're practicing you'll want to be either lying down, sitting comfortably, or standing with your legs slightly apart. Ensure your abs, stomach, thighs, and buttocks are all relaxed, and breathe as you normally would.

    Once you've located your pelvic floor muscles (you can do this by stopping your flow of urine while peeing, or even by attempting to move your flaccid penis without touching it) all you need to do to successfully perform a kegel is contract them, hold for 5 to 10 seconds, and then relax.

    That's all there is to it! After you've learned how to perform them correctly, we'd suggest developing a routine - three sets of 10 kegels are perfect for a single session. You can increase this amount to your liking, but try to do them every day. Just don't overdo it!

    11. Make sure you sleep enough

    Not getting enough sleep is linked to various health conditions, but research has shown that it is also linked to erectile dysfunction. Numerous sleep disorders including insomnia (struggling to fall and stay asleep), nocturia (needing to get up and pee excessively during the night), and sleep apnea (where your breathing stops and starts repeatedly while you sleep).

    However, the exact reason for these sleep disorders causing erectile dysfunction isn't entirely clear. Additionally, sleep disorders seem to make more of a difference if you already have one or more risk factors for erectile dysfunction. Either way, getting the right amount of sleep seems to be one of the ways to reduce your risk of having erection troubles.

    How to:

    There are numerous things you can do to ensure you're getting the right amount of sleep, which is generally considered to be between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night for adults.

    A sleep routine can be helpful, and involves planning out when you start to wind down for the day. Relaxing activities are super important for sleep, and they can be different for everyone - listening to music or reading is always good.

    A sleep routine also involves starting to wind down, trying to fall asleep, and waking up at the same times every day.

    It's also important to have the right sleep environment - you want your environment to be dark, quiet, and not too warm. You might also want to leave your cell phone out of reach.

    Diet and exercise can also help you sleep. Avoiding heavy meals and stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol in the hours before sleep is very useful. Regular exercise helps ensure that you're actually tired at the end of the day, which is useful as forcing sleep doesn't always work out.

    12. Check yourself regularly for STIs

    As we've already mentioned, sexually transmitted infections can play havoc with your penile health, as well as the sexual health of your sexual partners. Getting tested for STIs is an important aspect of safe sex as it helps protect yourself and others.

    Using condoms can help reduce the risk of contracting an STI, but ideally, if you regularly sleep with different and/or new sexual partners, you need to be getting tested regularly, and ensuring your sexual partners are tested too.

    How to:

    If you have health insurance or are a part of Medicaid or another government health program, you'll probably be able to get STI tests either for free, or for fairly cheap - contact your provider and discuss it with them.

    If you don't, some other health centers and sexual health clinics including Planned Parenthood can give free or low-cost tests depending on your income. You can use the CDC's Get Tested website to quickly find places to get tested that are cheap or even free, and always confidential. The website recommends locations based on your zip code - it's very useful.

    13. Keep an eye on stress

    Stress and mental health can affect your penile health in a variety of different ways. Stress, anxiety, and depression are some of the most well-known risk factors for erectile dysfunction, but they're not always the single cause. Either way, reducing stress has been shown to improve erectile function, so trying to eliminate it seems like a worthwhile endeavor.

    A different study also found a high correlation between men who scored highly on a stress and trauma checklist and men who suffered from secondary premature ejaculation - premature ejaculation that you acquire later in life. Once again, this suggests that reducing stress helps improve penile health.

    How to:

    Reducing stress is a large topic that encompasses many different methods, all of which work differently for different people. Here are a few of the most commonly recommended ways to reduce stress in your daily life:

      Ideally, you want to be achieving all of these things, but it can help to focus on one or a few of them at a time so you don't get overwhelmed - this will just make you more stressed!

      Summary

      Penis health can be affected by so many things that it can be hard to keep track of. Luckily though, most men should be able to relate to at least one of the causes on this list. If you don't, it's important to contact a healthcare professional - they'll be able to assist you further.

      Lots of the tips we've included on this list are also just general tips to boosting your overall health, as your overall health is often reflected in the health of your penis.

      Safe sex, exercise, diet, hygiene, and stress relief are some of the factors that can make the biggest difference for a healthy penis, and for the rest of your body in mind.

      If your penis health isn't where you want it, don't lose hope - as we've shown here, there's always something you can do!

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