Far too many men tend to take the robust health of their youth for granted, reacting with shock when confronted later in life with serious health problems, many of which could have been prevented. This is particularly true of sexual health and function, which can be seriously compromised unless a man makes the healthy lifestyle choices recommended to keep his penis in tip-top shape and functioning as it was intended to do.

Many of the most widely repeated recommendations for penis health are identical to those suggested for optimal cardiovascular health. This should come as no big surprise since the blood flow that is key to penile health and function is also critical to sound cardiovascular function. After all, the biggest cause by far of erectile dysfunction is insufficient blood flow to the penis. And if the smaller arteries that supply the penis are getting clogged or failing to function as they should, it’s probably only a matter of time before the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the brain and heart begin to malfunction.

This close connection between erectile function and cardiovascular function has prompted many medical professionals to observe that what’s good for the heart is also good for the penis, or vice versa. Keeping that in mind, following these suggestions for optimal penile health can save you from a world of hurt by preserving strong blood flow throughout your body and thus staving off the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Here are some practical steps that you can take to ensure continued penile health and optimal function:

1. Use It or Lose It!

This is one recommendation that will probably be warmly embraced by almost all men. To ensure that your penis stays healthy and functions at optimal levels, you must have erections on a regular basis. Or as Tobias Kohler, M.D., assistant professor of urology at Southern Illinois University Medical School, told, “It [your penis] has to be essentially exercised.” He notes that the smooth muscle of the penis needs to be periodically enriched with the oxygen supplied by the fresh inflows of blood that cause erections. For those men who are experiencing difficulty — be it temporary or permanent — getting an erection, Dr. Kohler suggests that a vacuum pump can replicate the process and thus provide the workout the penis needs to maintain tone.

2. Exercise Regularly

Just as your penis requires a regular workout, so does the rest of your body, particularly your cardiovascular system. In his blog at, a website he founded, urologist Andrew Siegel, M.D., ticks off the many benefits of regular exercise for penile health: “It reduces stress, improves mood, prevents fatigue, and increases energy. Long term it will reduce your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, osteoporosis, chronic medical problems, and physical disability. Exercise makes your heart a better and stronger pump, your blood vessels more elastic, and your muscles better . . . at using oxygen.”

3. Eat a Healthy Diet

The Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that eating a diet loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish significantly reduced the risk of erectile dysfunction, according to an article at Healthbeat, a publication of Harvard Medical School. To maximize penile health, reduce your intake of red meats, refined grains, and other processed foods.

4. Stop Smoking

Urologist Charles Walker, M.D., co-founder of the Cardiovascular and Sexual Health clinic at Yale University, tells that there is a direct relationship between cigarette smoking and ED. Smoking can damage the sensitive endothelial lining of the arteries that supply the penis, thus interfering with normal blood flow. Dr. Walker cites a Chinese study showing that men who smoke are 51 percent more likely to develop ED than nonsmokers.

5. Drop That Extra Weight

If you’re overweight or even obese, you’re putting a heavy burden on your heart and circulatory system, which must work extra hard to pump oxygen-rich blood to all your vital organs, including your penis. Carrying around that extra weight also significantly increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, which can cause extensive nerve damage and also interfere with the blood flow that is essential to penile health and function.

6. Get a Good Night’s Sleep… Every Night

In his blog at, Dr. Siegel, author of “Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Your Sexual and Urinary Health,” says that getting a good night’s sleep is essential to the maintenance of overall health. He points out that if you’re exhausted from lack of proper sleep, “your penis is going to be weary as well.”