It's the 'use it or lose it' principle at work, one expert says
THURSDAY, July 3 (HealthDay News) -- Frequent sexual intercourse may cut down on a man's chances of developing erectile dysfunction, Finnish researchers report.
"This is the same as any other part of the body. It's what we in vascular surgery refer to as the 'use it or lose it' concept," said Dr. Hossein Sadeghi-Nejad, an associate professor of urology at UMDNJ New Jersey Medical School Hackensack University Medical Center. "Sexual activity will promote maintenance of normal erectile function down the line."
The report was published in the July issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
In the study, led by Dr. Juha Koskimki, from Tampere University Hospital's Department of Urology, researchers collected data on 989 Finnish men aged 55 to 75 years old.
The researchers found that men who said they had sexual intercourse less than once a week had twice the risk of developing erectile dysfunction, compared with men reporting having sexual intercourse once a week.
Among men who had sexual intercourse less than once a week, there were 79 cases of erectile dysfunction per 1,000 men. That number dropped to 32 cases per 1,000 among men who said they had sexual intercourse once a week, and it dropped even further, to 16 per 1,000, among men who said they had sexual intercourse three or more times a week, the researchers reported.
The frequency of morning erections was not associated with the incidence of moderate erectile dysfunction, the researchers noted.
However, the development of complete erectile dysfunction could be predicted from the frequency of morning erections. Among men with less than one morning erection a week, the risk of developing erectile dysfunction was 2.5-fold greater than among men who had two to three morning erections per week.
"Regular intercourse has an important role in preserving erectile function among elderly men, whereas morning erection does not exert a similar effect," Koskimki said in a statement. "Continued sexual activity decreases the incidence of erectile dysfunction in direct proportion to coital frequency."
Sadeghi-Nejad said there is a scientific basis for this finding, and it also has implications for rehabilitation of patients after prostate cancer treatment.
"What is very hot these days is what we can do to rehabilitate people who develop erection problems after prostate cancer surgery or radiation therapy," Sadeghi-Nejad said. "Anything you can do to increase oxygenation in the penis will help get patients back to normal."
If one can naturally engage in behaviors that increase blood flow to the penis, it will have a positive effect in preventing erectile dysfunction, Sadeghi-Nejad said.
Sadeghi-Nejad noted that the study only addressed intercourse, and not masturbation. "This is essentially the same concept," Sadeghi-Nejad said. "Anything you can do to bring blood to the penis is beneficial," he added.
For more about sexual dysfunction, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Hossein Sadeghi-Nejad, M.D., associate professor, urology, UMDNJ New Jersey Medical School, Hackensack University Medical Center; July 2008, American Journal of Medicine
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