Diabetes and Better Sex


Of course you know that eating right and exercising are good for you. But do you know that a healthy diet and regular physical activity are directly related to your ability to have normal sexual function? If you have diabetes, it’s even more important to pay close attention to your diet and exercise routine.

The benefits of exercise and healthy eating constantly reinforce each other.

First of all, good blood flow to the penis is essential for erections. High levels of cholesterol and fat in your bloodstream leave deposits in the walls of your blood vessels. This leads to atherosclerosis and contributes to high blood pressure, both of which can damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow. Exercise helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure. A diet low in fat and cholesterol also helps to prevent and reverse the buildup of fatty deposits in blood vessels.

Second, a high blood sugar level damages nerves as well as the blood vessels that are involved in getting an erection. A good diet and the right amount of exercise help keep your blood sugar level under control. Studies show that people who exercise are less likely to get diabetes, and people with diabetes who exercise have better control of their blood sugar levels. Exercise helps you use sugar more easily. That leaves less sugar in the blood.

Eating a diet low in calories — and burning calories through exercise helps you tone your body and lose weight. Studies have linked erectile dysfunction and being overweight. Many other studies have shown that exercise fights depression, which also has a major impact on sexual function. With a leaner, toned body and a better sense of well-being and self-esteem, you’re more likely to feel sexy and have normal erections.

But there’s a lot of confusing information out there. Maybe you’re wondering exactly what you should eat and what kind of exercise to choose.

Designing a Sexy Plate

For someone with diabetes, it’s important to have a meal plan approved by your doctor and a registered dietitian who is trained in diabetes nutrition.

In general, though, there are simple ways to make sure you’re eating the right things at each meal.

One good guideline to use is the food pyramid. It tells you how much of various foods should be in your diet. The things you should eat most are at the bottom and those that should be the least part of your diet are at the top. According to the food pyramid, every day you should eat:

  • * 2 cups of a variety of fruit
  • * 2.5 cups of richly colored vegetables
  • * 3 ounces of whole grains like whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, or brown rice
  • * Up to 3 ounces of refined grains like pasta, white rice, or white bread
  • * 3 servings of dairy foods (A serving = 1 cup of low-fat milk or yogurt, 1.5 ounces of cheese)
  • * 5 ounces of meat, fish, eggs, or legumes for protein
  • * 5 teaspoons of oils (including the oil found in nuts and fish)
  • * 130 to 295 discretionary calories such as sweets (about 1 cookie or cup of ice cream)

(*Note: These amounts are recommended for the average adult woman. Men can consume about one ounce more in each category.)

The diabetes “exchange” system is another way of figuring out how much of what foods to eat. An exchange list shows what portion size of a given food gives you the same amount of calories and nutrients. For example, one medium-sized peach is equivalent to 12 large cherries.

The American Diabetes Association’s “Rate Your Plate” guide is a different way to look at what you’re eating. Following this guide, you divide your plate into imaginary quarters. One-quarter should contain starches, like potatoes or rice. One-quarter should contain meat. One half should contain vegetables.

Work Out Your Workout

When it comes to exercise, you don’t have to follow any “fad” workouts. Just find a way to get your body moving and your heart rate up. Here is the recommendation of the CDC:

  • * 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week; or
  • * 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three days a week.

But what do “moderate” and “vigorous” actually mean? You can tell how intense the activity you’re doing is by measuring your heart rate while you’re doing it.

First, figure out what your maximum heart rate is. That’s the number 220 minus your age. If you’re 40, your max heart rate is 180.

To measure your heart rate while exercising, pause briefly to take your pulse. Place your middle and index fingers on the artery of your neck or wrist where you can feel your pulse. Using a watch with a second hand, count the number of pulses, or beats, in 60 seconds. That’s your heart rate. (If you’d rather take less time to do it, you can count the number of beats in 30 seconds and multiply by two.)

When you’re doing moderate exercise, your heart rate will be 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate — which is based on a person’s age. If your max heart rate is 180, your goal for moderate exercise is to get your heart rate up to 90 to 126 beats per minute (bpm).

Here’s that equation:

  • 220 – age = max heart rate
    • 180 x .50 (50%) = 90 bpm
    • 180 x .70 (70%) = 126 bpm

For vigorous exercise, figure it the same way, but instead of 50% to 70% of your max heart rate, the range is 70% to 85%.

  • 180 x .70 (70%) = 126 bpm
  • 180 x .85 (85%) = 153 bpm


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