Newswise — BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 12 percent of men age 18 and older are in fair or poor health leading to obesity, hypertension and even mortality. Medical professionals from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have provided a few tips to help men get healthy.  

Quitting smoking or chewing tobacco can be very challenging. Kicking the habit can be beneficial for sexual performance, and heart and lung health. It is a preventable driver of mortality through cancer and cardiovascular disease.  

“Tobacco is a major cause of damage to the blood vessels that flow to the penis,” said J. Patrick Selph, M.D., assistant professor in the UAB Department of Urology. “If the blood vessels to the penis are damaged, erectile dysfunction may result. Tobacco is also a major cause of cardiovascular disease, and in some cases where the heart or its blood vessels are damaged, a man may be too unhealthy to engage in intercourse.” 

Studies have shown that smokers are at a higher risk of having a reduced sperm count and lower sperm motility, affecting male fertility. Side effects are worse in moderate or heavy smokers. 

“I always tell my male patients that anything that is heart-healthy is penis-healthy,” Selph said. “One of the major causes of both erectile dysfunction and cardiovascular disease is smoking. In fact, studies have shown that men who have erectile dysfunction are at risk for having a major cardiac event within five years. Quitting smoking is a key tool in the prevention of these problems.”

In addition to the overall issues with tobacco, chewing tobacco poses a risk for throat and next cancer, as well as many dental problems. 

“Those who stop smoking will see an immediate impact on their blood pressure with a decrease within minutes, and the toxic levels of carbon monoxide decrease within a day,” said J. Michael Wells, M.D., assistant professor in UAB’s Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine. “Within three months, lung function begins to improve, and the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular diseases will decrease by at least four times.”

Selph recommends a multifaceted approach, including counseling and sometimes medication. The most important thing to kicking the habit is being ready to do so. A few additional tips from Selph and Wells to quit:

  • If you are not motivated to quit, you probably will not succeed.
  • Set a stop date.
  • Get rid of paraphernalia lying around the house such as ashtrays, lighters and cigarettes.
  • Avoid stopping at the store where you typically purchased your tobacco products.
  • Don’t be afraid to lean on a family member or friend.
  • Kick the habit with a friend who is ready to quit also.
  • Find a support group.
  • Use nicotine replacement products.

“Don’t be afraid of failure,” Wells said. “If you have a relapse, pick yourself up and try again. Cessation for any amount of time is a success. If it were easy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” 

About UAB

Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is the state of Alabama’s largest employer and an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center; its professional schools and specialty patient-care programs are consistently ranked among the nation’s top 50. UAB’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science is advancing innovative discoveries for better health as a two-time recipient of the prestigious Center for Clinical and Translational Science Award. Find more information at and


EDITOR’S NOTE: The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a separate, independent institution from the University of Alabama, which is located in Tuscaloosa. Please use University of Alabama at Birmingham on first reference and UAB on all subsequent references.