Some of the most reliable ED stats have emerged from a large data collection effort called the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. According to that data, rates of ED among men tend to correlate with their age bracket, says Tobias Köhler, M.D., chief of the Division of Male Infertility at Southern Illinois University. “Roughly 40 percent of men in their 40s suffer from ED, 50 percent in their 50s, etc.,” he says.

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If you’re a guy over 40, there’s a fifty-fifty chance that you have a problem getting or keeping an erection. Now, I don’t mean the sort of erection you saw in American Pie! I mean an erection that’s firm enough and long-lasting enough for sexual satisfaction. Every guy has times when he just can’t manage an erection. Still, if you’re having trouble achieving a satisfying erection more than 50% of the time, you’ve got erectile dysfunction (ED).
Medications for erectile dysfunction don't work for everyone and may cause side effects that make a particular drug hard to take. "Work with your doctor to find the right treatment. There are still options for people who fail at medical treatment," advises Feloney. Alternatives to erectile dysfunction drugs include vacuum pump devices, medications injected into the penis, testosterone replacement if needed, and a surgical penile implant.

Failure to achieve an erection is not uncommon for most men and may be considered normal even if it happens as often as 20 percent of the time. There is a wide range of normal when it comes to sexual functioning and sexual relationships. "Generally if a couple feels comfortable with their sex life and they enjoy intimacy together, erectile dysfunction may not be much of an issue. But if erectile dysfunction is causing stress in a relationship, then help is available," says Feloney.


A 2013 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine evaluated 439 men for erectile dysfunction and compared ED causes and frequency in men 40 or younger to men over 40. They found that 26 percent of the younger men had ED. Although these men were healthier and had higher levels of testosterone than the older men, they were more likely to be smokers or to have used illicit drugs. In almost half of the younger men with ED, the ED was considered severe.

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UW Health urologists with advanced training offer medical and surgical treatment options for men and their partners affected by erectile dysfunction. There are several different ways that erectile dysfunction can be treated. For some men, making a few healthy lifestyle changes may solve the problem. Your urologist will help determine the most effective course of treatment for your condition. 

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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.
These specific chemicals are found in erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra and Cialis."The chemicals that cause the outflow are called phosphodiesterases," says Reitano. "To give you a stronger erection, erectile dysfunction medications (PDE-5 inhibitors) block or inhibit the phosphodiesterases, which enables the blood vessels in the penis to stay open and receive more blood, creating a firmer and longer lasting erection. This is why the drugs are called phosphodiesterase inhibitors (PDE-5 inhibitors for short)."
"If any of these physiological factors don't work properly, a man can experience weak erections," says Axe. "Problems maintaining an erection can be due to a number of issues, from hormone imbalances, to neurological issues, cardiovascular conditions, stress and issues with your mental health. There is not one clear way to explain erectile dysfunction — it depends on the man and his specific health condition."

There are a lot of explanations for these high ED rates, some of which are psychological. “A lot of men may have an off night, and then that sticks in their head and hurts their performance for a few weeks or months,” Dr. Köhler explains. He says anxiety stokes hormones like the fight-or-flight chemical adrenaline, which is a serious boner killer. (In evolutionary terms, it would be tough to run away from a predator with an erection.)
The reversal of an erection is obviously necessary, but as Dr. Michael Reitano, physician in residence at Roman explains, this can be the impetus for weaker erections. "Usually there is a balance between the chemicals that result in the increased blood flow that results in a firm erection and the chemicals that allow blood to exit the penis and return it to being soft," he says. "That balance is precise and occurs in a sequence that allows an erection to last only as long as needed. However, in someone who experiences a softer erection, the balance of the chemicals that make the penis hard and the chemicals that return it to being soft is off. The scale is tilted."
Improve your nutrition. Certain foods, such as those that are fatty, fried, sugary, and processed, can result in decreased blood flow throughout your body and can contribute to a vascular form of erectile dysfunction. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy fats to improve your blood circulation and increase the amount of time you’re able to maintain an erection.
Watch whatever you eat: poor diet is also the reason for weak erections. As per the research, specific eating patterns cause heart attacks due to the restricted blood flow in coronary arteries which impede blood flow to the penis. Blood flow is also required for the penis to make it erect. Some of the diets also include vegetables and fruits that have fried, fatty and even processed foods that contributed to decreasing the blood circulation throughout the whole body. Anything which is terrible for man’s heart is also wrong for his penis and gaining an erection. One can learn how to keep an erection
Performance anxiety: Perhaps the most common cause of erectile problems among younger guys is performance anxiety. Many cultures place pressure on men to be the "experts" when it comes to sex, which can make men feel like they have to be responsible for sex or know how to please their partner every time. This pressure can be stressful and make it more difficult to get or maintain an erection.
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.
"Some physical problems that can lead to weak erections are the inability of your brain to send signals to your penis, which can be caused by neurological conditions like MS, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's," adds Axe. "Studies suggest that stress, anxiety and depression can produce major chemical changes in your brain, leading to the inability of smooth muscles to relax and allow for an erection. On top of this, researchers have also indicated that the failure to achieve an erection can aggravate a man's anxiety levels, leading to a vicious cycle."

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If this scenario sounds familiar, you're in good company. "In an ideal world, strong erections would come simply and naturally," says Caleb Backe, health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics. "However, due to a myriad of reasons, erectile dysfunction can set it at any given time or for a prolonged period of time for a large part of the male population. It is estimated that as many as 30 million men in the United States alone suffer from ED."
Something James, 26, knows for sure about his penis is that it won’t get hard when he’s sleeping with a woman for the first time. No, it has nothing to do with how attracted he is to her. It’s just a classic case of performance anxiety, caused by his personal fears about how awkward and uncomfortable the experience could be—which, of course, turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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