Men with a healthy lifestyle and no chronic disease had the lowest risk for erectile dysfunction; the greatest difference was seen for men aged 65-79. For instance, men who exercised at least three hours per week had a 30% lower risk for ED than those who exercised little. Obesity, smoking, and excessive TV watching were also associated with having a greater risk of erectile dysfunction.
"Smoking is a short- and long-term cause of erectile dysfunction," warns Feloney. "In the short-term nicotine constricts the blood vessels that you need to get an erection, and in the long-term nicotine contributes to hardening of the arteries that can cause erectile dysfunction." Some approaches for quitting include making a clean break, avoiding the triggers of smoking, trying a nicotine patch or gum, and joining a smoke cessation program.
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)."
As it turns out, there are actually tons of things that can keep guys from getting an erection that have nothing to do with you (also, all that stuff you learned in middle school about how all guys are hump-crazed sex lunatics might have been slightly off). Between 20 and 30 million American men experience recurring erection difficulties, and almost all men have, at one time or another, had their top ramen refuse to boil. And while erectile issues are often seen as an older man's problem, in reality, one quarter of men seeking medical treatment for erectile difficulties are under 40.
In the long term, the best thing you can do for ED problems is “stay playful and keep the focus off getting your partner erect,” says Goldberg. Experiment with new erotic scenarios and situations, like having sex in a different room, wearing lingerie, or role-playing your fave fantasy. Oh, and don’t limit yourselves to just intercourse either (which applies to all couples, whether or not you’re dealing with ED). “The broader your definition of sex,” Goldberg says, “the more sex you can be having.”
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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."
About 5 percent of men that are 40 years old have complete erectile dysfunction, and that number increases to about 15 percent of men at age 70. Mild and moderate erectile dysfunction affects approximately 10 percent of men per decade of life (i.e., 50 percent of men in their 50s, 60 percent of men in their 60s). Erectile dysfunction can occur at any age, but it is more common in men that are older. Older men are more likely to have health conditions that require medication, which can interfere with erectile function. Additionally, as men age, they may need more stimulation to get an erection and more time between erections.
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to attain or maintain an erection adequate for the sexual satisfaction of both partners. At one time, doctors tended to blame ED on psychological problems or, with older men, on the normal aging process. Today, urologists say physical factors underlie perhaps 90% of cases of persistent erectile dysfunction in men older than 50.