We have just experienced the first cold snap of the autumn, and soon we will be entering winter with the inevitable chilly temperatures. This can affect our clothing and eating choices, and it may cause a change in our mood and anxiety levels. It can even have an impact on our sex lives, and some men may experience erectile dysfunction (ED).

This unfortunate problem can really put a downer of cosy and romantic nights in with your partner. ED is often a poorly understood condition despite the fact that it is very common, especially in men over the age of 40. The good news is that once any serious underlying causes have been ruled out by a doctor, it’s easily treatable with effective medication.

ED can be more prevalent in the winter months for a couple of reasons. The first is that lower temperatures can cause mild vasoconstriction, which is the narrowing of the blood vessels. This is because it can help to reduce heat loss in the body by moving the blood vessels further away from the surface of the skin.

The areas of the body that feel the effects of this process most strongly are the extremities, including the hands, feet, and genitals. This will mean that men may find it more difficult to get an erection in colder weather. The problem can be remedied by keeping the room at an ambient temperature, adding an extra duvet on the bed, or even keeping (some) clothes on.

The second reason that ED can be more prevalent in the winter is attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression that can occur in autumn and winter, and is caused by a lack of exposure to natural daylight.

Scientists believe that this may be because it affects the functioning of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that plays an important role in learning and memory. This can in turn lead to poorer cognitive function and may increase feelings of dissatisfaction with life.

Sometimes, the shorter days and colder weather can simply get us down, particularly in the case of people who are already prone to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. The dark evenings can increase the sense of social isolation and drain us of energy and optimism.

Depression and other mental health problems such as stress and anxiety are known to be a cause of low libido in some men, which is why SAD is associated with ‘winter ED.’ Doctors

advise people who are affected by SAD to spend as much time as possible out of doors, and to increase their consumption of vitamin D with foods such as eggs and fatty fish.

There are also specifically designed daylight lamps available that can help to replicate the benefits of natural daylight.

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