RECENT research carried out at the University of Athens has shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet, including using olive oil rather than butter, may improve men’s sexual health in the long term, hopefully, with less need for medication.

The study looked at more than 600 men with an average age of 67, and found that embracing a healthier lifestyle could reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction by up to 40 per cent.

While this may come as no shock, you may be surprised to learn that erectile dysfunction is estimated to affect one in two men between the ages of 40 and 70 at some point. Yet despite this, it may take an individual two years to address the problem and seek help.

Erectile dysfunction, also and perhaps unkindly referred to as impotence, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection that allows penetration or sexual satisfaction.

An erection happens when signals from the brain indicating sexual arousal, increase the blood flow into the penis.

This rapid influx causes the organ to swell, which also restricts blood flow out of the penis, hence maintaining the erection.

Previously, erectile dysfunction was thought to be due to entirely psychological causes. However, research has shown that the narrowing of the blood vessels in the penis may indicate similar changes are occurring elsewhere, namely the arteries supplying the heart, and that this may precede actual symptoms of coronary artery disease by up to five years.

Other causes of erectile dysfunction include neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Unfortunately, diabetes affects both the nerves and arteries supplying the penis.

For men with erection problems as well as issues with passing water, this may indicate prostate disease. Certain medications can cause erectile dysfunction and obviously any mental ill health may have an impact.

Irrespective of the cause, you should not ignore the problem or just put it down to stress.

Both your routine GP as well as sexual health clinics are geared up to helping you in an understanding manner, while also identifying any underlying health concerns.

A check-up might include blood tests to measure your cholesterol and sugars, a blood pressure reading and if you have urinary symptoms, a rectal examination to assess the prostate.

The first tablets available to treat erectile dysfunction arrived in 1998, and today you can purchase sildenafil, (trade name Viagra) over the counter without needing a prescription.

Non tablet medications include creams directly applied to the penis, injections into the base of the penis as well as pellets that are inserted into the tip of the urethra at the head of the penis. However, as the adage goes, prevention is better than cure, especially as many men wish to maintain a healthy sex life for as long as possible.

Good diet and regular exercise are keystones, as well as altering unhealthy behaviours including excess alcohol, smoking and recreational drug use.

I would advise any man with persisting erectile dysfunction to book an appointment with their GP to properly address the issue, rather than reach for an over-the-counter quick fix.