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Here’s one more reason to quit smoking: lighting up could be slowing you down in the bedroom. A U.S. study suggests men who successfully quit smoking had more improved sexual health based on lab measurements. Study author, Christopher Harte, from the VA Boston Healthcare System, published his findings in the British Journal of Urology International.
With younger men, the risks of smoking in that population appear more far off. They think, ‘I don’t really need to worry about this until much farther down the road.’ Regardless of if this really does apply to all men who smoke or not (the goal was) just getting the word out that men could be aware of this finding, so it could influence their decisions to start the quitting process, Harte told Reuters Health. The smoking study is not yet definitive.
Harte and co-author Cindy Meston, UT Texas, Austin, enrolled 65 men without self-reported impotence in an eight-week quit smoking program using nicotine patches. The researcher brought the men into a locked lab and showed them a racy film before treatment, halfway through and a few weeks after. While they watched, men recorded their arousal level. A device measured how much their penis grew or shrank. The men also filled out separate surveys about their sexual function outside of the lab, including questions about desire and sexual satisfaction.
By the end of the study, there were 20 men that hadn’t lit up in at least a week, while 45 men were still smoking.
Smokers who successfully quite cigarettes saw a greater increase in the penile growth width compared to non-quitters. Through their personal scoring, men reached their peak level of arousal sooner than men who were still lighting up.
However, men who had dropped the habit didn’t report any sexual improvement in “real-life” settings, said the researchers. It’s also possible that the improvements they saw in the lab may take time to translate to the bedroom. It might take longer for men to actually notice their level of difference subjectively outside of the lab, which is also dependent on their relationship with their sexual partner, said Harte.
While smoking has been linked to a host of other health problems such as cancer and heart disease, the researchers said their finding is a new angle for doctors to use with men who are still reluctant to try quitting.
Lydia Bazzano, erectile dysfunction researcher at the Tulane University Health Sciences Center said, Previous research has shown that long-term smokers are up to twice as likely to have impotence as non-smokers. Smoking can show blood vessel dilation, which is necessary to get an erection
Harte said the point of the study may be that the connection doesn’t just apply to men with severe erectile dysfunction issues.
“The take-home point is that even men who don’t have a clinical diagnosis of (erectile dysfunction) … may still benefit from quitting smoking,” he added.
A study from AIE Pharmaceuticals corroborates these findings. Impotence affects roughly 10% of all men between 25-75. The risk of impotence is increased to nearly 50% for men who smoke. (Diabetes, high cholesterol and drugs used to treat high blood pressure also increase the chances for impotence.)
During an erection, blood flows into the penile arteries causing the veins which drain the penis to become compressed, preventing blood from leaving the penis. This process is significantly impaired by smoking. Less blood flows into the penis if the route is blocked by fatty deposits in the arteries, (atherosclerosis) caused by smoking.
Contraction of the penile tissue and restricted blood flow to the penis occurs from nicotine stimulation in the brain. Smoking impairs the valve mechanism that traps blood in the penis is impaired by nicotine in the blood stream.