Is Viagra® the only solution?''

The dreaded ''I'' word is impotence. I actually think the ''I'' word is more shunned and scoffed at by men than the dreaded ''M''' word, menopause. Women form groups, write self help books and are free to openly discuss their sometimes dysfunctional bodies with each other. Men, it seems, suffer in silence. That silence can turn into a ticking time bomb that on explosion can spark extramarital affairs and end an otherwise happy solid long term relationship.

Viagra®, when first released, was touted by the drug companies as the panacea for impotence. But since its release and some rather serious problems with its use, the makers of Viagra® are adding what they term ''stronger warning labels.'' I will say this much: at least this drug has brought the subject out of the closet and has got men thinking more seriously about finally doing something to improve this difficult sensitive problem.

Impotence is not just a mind game as believed in the 1950s but rather a medical problem with physical causes that can and should be addressed. More than 30 million American men suffer from some degree of impotence according to a study published in Urology Times. The study goes on to say that it's not the normal aging process that accounts for most of the male erectile dysfunction. Some causes sighted were high blood pressure and the medications used to lower it, smoking, overuse of alcohol, lack of exercise or too much exercise (especially bicycling) and diabetes.

The other main cause this study focused on, which may come as surprise to most men, was high cholesterol levels. Another study of 3,250 men demonstrated that the higher the serum cholesterol, the greater the likelihood of impotence. The medical community is actually using the diagnosis of impotence in men to determine increased incidence of coronary artery disease as the tiny blood vessels are affected throughout the body.

If you are suffering from impotence, first things first, see your medical doctor. If you would like to approach things more naturally, it looks like there are several ways of doing just that.

Yohimbine, an herb from the bark of an African tree may help restore function. Although this herb has been shown to be effective for 30-40 percent of men with mild vascular obstruction it does has some side effects such as headache and dizziness.

Dean Ornish, M.D., in his book, ''Dr. Dean Ornish's Program For Reversing Heart Disease,'' has shown that the effects of atherosclerosis can be modified by using a diet very low in saturated fats and high in complex carbohydrates. By decreasing serum cholesterol levels and adding exercise, you can improve blood supply and function.

Other good advice from the experts:

Be patient! Aging is not synonymous with dysfunction. It may take more time to achieve the desired results.

Know your medications. If you suspect your impotence is related to medication, consult your doctor. It may be that you can lower the dose or change medications that will not interfere.

Take vitamins and minerals and utilize a source of essential fatty acids such as fish oil or flax seed oil. A diet deplete of vitamins and minerals can lead to vascular dysfunction that may be adding to the bigger picture.

Viagra® may have already caused some serious problems for those utilizing the drug; this is unfortunate. What is positive? It brings the problem of male impotence out of the closet and opens it for discussion and, hopefully, resolution.

Till next time, Rebecca

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online May 22, 2001

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