Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to the inability to get an erection and have satisfying sex, which can cause distress for couples. In order to have an erection, there needs to be proper functioning of the muscles, blood flow and nerves.
While erectile dysfunction can have psychological causes, it tends to be a sign of underlying medical issues. It is therefore very important to discuss ED with an urologist or GP.
There are many options to to treat erectile dysfunction, but there are also several ways to prevent it from happening in the first place:
Adapt your diet
The same foods that can cause heart disease can also cause ED. As ED is caused by insufficient blood flow to the penile area, include foods that stimulate circulation by incorporating leafy greens (nitrates), dark chocolate (flavonoids), oysters and shellfish (zinc) in your diet.
Antioxidants like lycopene found in fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, berries and watermelon can also help prevent erectile dysfunction as these lower your risk of heart disease. A general rule of thumb is that any food that is good for heart health and circulation will also help prevent ED.
Maintain a healthy weight
An unhealthy weight can put you at risk for many chronic diseases, but it it is especially type 2 diabetes that can affect the nerve system and lead to ED. Extra weight can also result in an unhealthy heart, causing unhealthy circulation, ultimately leading to ED.
Maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels
Along with a healthy weight, it is important to keep your vitals in check. Go for regular check-ups to sort out any irregularities in your blood pressure and cholesterol. Several studies have revealed that increased cholesterol levels can limit healthy erections as the arteries become clogged, impairing healthy circulation.
Keep tabs on your medication
Studies have shown that several medications can cause ED. If you are concerned that your current medication might be causing ED, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your doctor. Several kinds of drugs used for the treatment of high blood pressure, as well as some antidepressants can have an impact on your sex drive and ability to get an erection.
Drink alcohol moderately
While there is no concrete link between alcoholic beverages and ED, regular heavy drinking can cause ED as it can lead to nerve damage and an imbalance in the the male sex hormones, studies have found.
Avoid anabolic steroids
Recreational use of anabolic steroids among athletes and bodybuilders has been proven to be a cause of ED, as reported in this article in the Western Journal of Medicine. It happens because anabolic steroids literally shrink the scrotum, leading to lower levels of testosterone.
Stop smoking ASAP
Smoking has a negative effect on your entire body and increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart conditions and many other chronic diseases. And it damages your blood vessels, ultimately leading to weaker circulation, which, yes, you guessed it, can lead to ED.
Are problems with your erections or low libido putting a damper on your sex life?
These issues are fairly common in men over age 50, says psychologist Dana Brendza, PsyD. But this doesn’t mean you can’t work against them.
The first step: Talk to your doctor. It’s unlikely your medical practitioner will initiate this conversation so you need to bring up this topic.
Here are other tips to enjoy an active sex life long past the age of 50:
Prescription pills — Viagra®, Levitra®, or Cialis® — are the first-line treatment for erectile dysfunction, and they can be very effective. Your primary care doctor can prescribe them, and so can a urologist.
Watch your waistline
High blood pressure and cholesterol can cause the vascular problems that lead to trouble with your erections. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising and keeping your weight down.
Avoiding high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease may lessen the frequency of erection problems — or at least delay their onset.
Get your heart checked if needed
What if you already have an established condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes? Pills can still be effective, but your doctor may want to check your heart.
“It’s very important before dispensing these pills that practitioners make sure that heart function is good,” Dr. Brendza says. The reason: Problems with erections can indicate other problems, such as significant heart disease.
Don’t assume it’s low testosterone
Many experts are concerned too many men are being treated for low testosterone. However, a drop-off in desire can be related to hormones. For erection issues, it can be helpful to get your testosterone checked.
“It’s important that your doctor investigate and address why you have low testosterone,” Dr. Brendza says.
Sexual issues such as low libido and erectile dysfunction may have an emotional component, so psychological counseling may be an option.
“It’s important consider the possibility that a psychological issue could be causing your sexual troubles. In these cases, counseling may be helpful,” Dr. Brendza says.
Talk to your partner if your sex drives are mismatched
It’s common for couples to have mismatched sex drives. If that’s the case, couples need to speak frankly about what is important to them sexually and try to come to a compromise to meet both of their needs.
“Women may want to focus more on intimacy in a sexual relationship, while men may tend to focus more on the erectile aspects of sexual activity,” Dr. Brendza says.
In other words, ask your partner what she wants — and tell her what you want.
Set aside time for sex
As men age, the stress and pressures of everyday life can create a barrier to sex. Dr. Brendza says it’s important that couples set aside time to nurture the relationship and foster ongoing intimacy.