Erectile Dysfunction and Obesity: Another Sad Story, Same Happy Ending

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Aug 3 2005 - 8:16pm

If sales of Viagra, Levitra and Cialis are any indication, the pursuit of vigorous sexual function is a strong motivator for men of any age. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in promoting the take-a-pill approach to that pursuit, and millions of men have responded, in spite of potential side effects and other health risks involved.

Imagine if even a few million dollars were invested in a public education campaign letting men know that just losing weight and improving their fitness could be the answer to their personal distress.

It's true that recently, there have been more public health efforts to promote weight-loss and fitness in general, especially given the epidemic of obesity and associated increases in diabetes and heart disease. But imagine the impact of a campaign that gave men the concrete goal of a healthy sex life. Most would agree that seems more tangible to the average fellow than say, lowering his triglycerides.

There's likely to be some personal cost involved in pursuing comprehensive weight loss treatment. But how do those costs compare to the expense of prescription approaches? And consider how much overall health care costs would go down if men tried to recover their lost virility by losing weight and getting healthy, instead of popping a pill.

No matter how medically appropriate and cost-effective, this is one treatment that, as a JAMA editorial put it, will never be "accompanied by free pens, free notepads and its own Superbowl commercial." That means it's up to public health advocates and doctors to carry this message of hope without any big-budget hype.

Erectile dysfunction affects more than half of American males between age 40 and 70, and nearly 80 percent of men with the problem are overweight. Research shows that just walking a couple miles a day can significantly help a man's chances of avoiding, or even reversing, erectile dysfunction, and it's a lot cheaper and less risky than certain pills we hear a lot about.

Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D. is a board certified Family Physician and a board certified Bariatric Physicians (the medical specialty of weight management). She specializes in lifetime weight management at the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center, her Naples, FL private practice.

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