Virility refers to any of the various masculine characteristics of a male individual, such as manhood, vigor, sturdiness, strength, and sexual energy. From the point of view of childbearing, virility is to men as fertility is to women.
Upon reaching the age of 40, men develop a number of health issues like grey hair, aching joints, and ageing blood vessels, among others. These health concerns affect man’s virility; for example, ageing blood vessels that are clogged by fatty deposits will thwart blood flow to the male organ which can trigger erectile dysfunction.
Prior to reaching middle age, the testosterone levels of younger men are adequate. It will peak at age 30 and will then start to decline thereafter. Their testosterone level will drop because their bodies will naturally produce less and less of it.
This phase in a man’s lifespan is called “andropause.” Androapause is to men as menopause is to women although, in terms of fertility, the condition is not so dramatic in men.
Benefits of Regular Sexual Activity
An active sex life creates an effectual cycle. It helps maintain erections thereby lessening the likelihood of erectile dysfunction. Decreasing the chances of erectile dysfunction will also help protect the prostate and can even prevent the male organ from shrinking (which is part of ageing).
Studies conducted on men over age 50 show that men who experience at least two orgasms in a month have longer life expectancy. Studies also show that regular sexual activity contributed positively for patients with heart problems to survive a heart attack.
Scientists cannot explain in certain terms why this happens. They can only articulate that the feel-good compounds called endorphins which are produced after a sexual activity can help boost heart health and lower blood pressure resulting to better overall health.
The Refractory Phase
After ejaculation, man’s desire to have sex (or libido) can take time to peak again. It can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days. This period is called the refractory phase.
At the point of ejaculation, adrenaline and endorphins are released into the body. Adrenaline constricts the arteries in the penis thereby limiting the blood flow and causing its muscles to contract. Endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good compounds, cause the feeling of euphoria and calmness.
In time, adrenaline and endorphins will clear out from the body’s system. The body will then start producing nitric oxide which relaxes and widens the vessels and ease blood flow in the genitals again.
Risk Factors of Erectile Difficulties
The inability of a man to maintain an erection can be an indication of underlying health problems.
- Erectile dysfunction can be an early sign of multiple sclerosis (MS). This nerve-damaging condition affects at least 5–10% of male MS patients.
- Erection can be an early symptom for diabetes. High levels of blood sugar can negatively affect the production of nitric oxide. When the blood vessels are narrow, it is difficult for a man to get aroused.
- Erection difficulties can suggest blocked arteries that may be the result of obesity, high cholesterol, alcohol consumption, smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
- Erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of a heart attack. More often than not, smaller arteries in the male sex organ get blocked before larger arteries such as the ones in the heart get blocked. Studies show that 50–75% of men with penile artery disease also have blockage in their arteries around the heart.
How to Address Erectile Problems
Since erectile difficulties are early signs that a more serious health problem exists, it needs to be addressed. This is commonly done by taking a supplement called arginine which mainly increases the production of nitric oxide.
Taking impotence pills such as Viagra, Levitra, or Cialis can be addictive for some. This is the reason why these pills should never be taken without consulting a doctor. These pills must be taken at a certain dosage for a specific period only.
Another way to address the problem is the injection of a drug that relaxes the blood vessels, causing easy blood flow to the penis. The drug usually takes effect after 5–15 minutes after injection and has fewer side effects compared with oral medicines.
And then there’s sleep.
This is the time when our body will naturally repair and revitalize all our cells and tissues, including the genitalia. For men, it is when they are asleep during the night when they experience any number of erections which are crucial to addressing penile health issues. These erections happen during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase during sleep, also called the dreaming sleep at the end of the 90-minute adult sleep cycle.
A normal adult can have four or five sleep cycles per night and oftentimes wake up during the REM phase. This is the reason why men usually have an arousal in the morning.
During sleep, when blood flows into the chambers in the penis, erection occurs. While man is asleep, the nervous system releases adrenaline which decreases blood flow in the penis causing the organ’s muscles to contract. Decreased blood flow means decreased supply of oxygen and nutrients which can lead to damage in layer tissue affecting the ability of the male organ to become rigid.
During the REM phase, however, a branch in the nervous system prevents the release of adrenaline, resulting to widened blood vessels and easier blood flow. This increased blood flow provides ample, if not greater supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
A disrupted sleep cycle can cause erectile problems. Studies show that men who experience less or no longer experience the automatic nightly erections have problems getting and/or sustaining an erection when they are awake. In these cases, it is highly recommended that a doctor be consulted so that the problem can be treated.
Virility and the Natural Ageing Process
As man ages, the refractory phase will last for a longer period of time. This is possibly because it will also take the ageing male body a longer time to clear the endorphins from his system and start producing nitric oxide. Whereas the refractory phase in a 25-year-old male may take one minute, it might take one month for a 95-year-old; however, it is normally just a few hours.
Another natural course that comes along with ageing is the decrease in testosterone level. Men whose testosterone level is low are said to have more difficulties in getting another erection; however, there are treatments that can address this concern.