Erectile dysfunction, often referred to as ED, is characterized by a persistent and recurring inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. Psychological, physical and lifestyle issues can all cause ED, as can trauma to nerves and arteries. The incidence of erectile dysfunction increases with age, but young men can also experience it.
Fortunately, the harm free radicals cause can be prevented with antioxidant nutrients, notably vitamins A, C, and E, and the minerals, selenium and zinc. Antioxidant supplements can help, but nutritionists and public health officials agree that the best way to get antioxidants is from foods rich in them: fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. That's why health officials urge at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Many studies show that as fruit and vegetable consumption increases, risk of heart disease and every major cancer decreases. There have been no big studies of dietary antioxidants and sexual satisfaction, but the link is biologically irrefutable. As antioxidant intake increases, so does blood healthy flow around the body, including into the penis. If you smoke, quit. And eat at least five daily servings of fruits and vegetables—fruit with breakfast, a salad and/or vegetable at lunch and dinner, and snack on fruit.

Another way to keep your libido up is to act when you do get aroused. This might mean going home at lunchtime to have sex with your spouse, or leaving a party early with your date if you’re both aroused. Staving off an arousal trains your body to disassociate arousal with erections. You want the opposite. You want to get and keep a strong erection when you feel aroused so that you can have better sex. So this is a great excuse to tend to your sexual needs as they come, if you can.
The strength and frequency of your erection are an important indicator of your overall health. The blood vessels in the penis are smaller than arteries and veins in other parts of your body, so any problems like blockages, blood vessel dilation issues, or hormone imbalances will often show up as erectile dysfunction (or less firm erections) before something more serious like a heart attack or stroke.

The answers to these questions, as well as physiological tests like an ultrasound or neurological assessment, can help determine the root cause of ED. Depending on the cause, different treatment options are available. Treatments range from medication, to hormone replacement therapy, to vascular surgery, to sex therapy and/or couples counseling. It sounds like you have ruled out many physical factors, in which case it may be useful to consider psychological factors. Often, couples counseling and/or sex therapy (as a couple or individual) can identify factors related to ED, help with communication, and improve sex for both partners. For a sex therapist, check out the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) web site and click on the "Locate a Professional" link.


It’s important not to take a bout of psychological ED personally. Still, when confronting a suddenly soft penis in the moment, “It’s not you” can be hard to believe. For instance, Erin, 22, tried—really tried—to make sex with Drew* happen. The first time his erection died right before they were about to have sex, she improvised and gave him “really long” oral instead. But the lack of a boner was confusing. “That had never happened to me with a sexual partner, so I was like, ‘Okay, he’s just not into me,’” Erin recalls.

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