“ED causes stress, affects your self-confidence and contributes to relationship problems”
Erectile dysfunction – commonly known, as ED is a topic that many people especially men are hesitant to discuss. While ED can be seen more among older men, it affects younger men in large numbers too. While most men would rather be dead than discuss this condition, most cases of ED are treatable according to the published research from The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) through National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearinghouse – ‘What I Need to Know About Erectile Dysfunction’. So conversation with your doctor (and partner) can help lead to a more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
The Black Rhino editorial team put together some useful information about ED. It can be an uncomfortable topic, especially for younger men. But bear in mind that knowing about the condition may help you deal with this concern.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Also known as impotence, erectile dysfunction is defined as the failure to attain and/or maintain an erection for intercourse. In short, it is when you cannot get or keep an erection firm enough to have sex with your partner. According to the same research paper from NIDDK, you may have ED if: a) you can get an erection sometimes, though not every time; b) you can get an erection, yet it does not last long enough for sex; c) or, you are unable to get an erection at all.
Who Is Affected by ED?
Erectile dysfunction affects men of all races and in all parts of the world. They can occur in adults of all ages. Among those commonly affected are seniors, which may be related to a decline in health associated with aging. For example, ED occurs in about 12 percent of men younger than 60; 22 percent of men age 60 to 69; and 30 percent of men age 70 or older. Though, a study in the July 2013 Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests that ED is becoming more common among younger men than previously thought. Researchers found that ED affected 26 percent of adult men under 40.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
NIDDK’s ‘What I Need to Know About Erectile Dysfunction’ also revealed in its published research paper that ED can be a result of a physical or psychological condition.
- Physical causes: Many physical and/or medical conditions can cause problems with sexual function. These conditions include diseases affecting blood flow, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes, neurological disorders, hormonal imbalances, chronic diseases such as kidney or liver failure, and alcoholism and drug abuse. In addition, the side effects of certain medications, including some antidepressant drugs, can affect sexual desire and function. Moreover, hormonal disorders, such as low testosterone, may contribute to ED.
- Psychological causes: Causes of ED include work-related stress and anxiety, concern about sexual performance, marital or relationship problems, depression, feelings of guilt, and the effects of a past sexual trauma. Remember, the feelings of sexual excitement (that lead to an erection) start in the brain. Yet, conditions such as depression and anxiety can interfere with that process. In fact, a major sign of depression is withdrawal from things that once brought pleasure. Stress about jobs, money, and other concerns contribute to ED. Additionally, alcohol and drug abuses are both common causes of ED among young men.
Can You Overcome Erectile Dysfunction?
Whether you currently suffer from ED or are hoping to sidestep this condition, try these tips directly lifted from What to do about Erectile Dysfunction (a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School), for better health and a better sex life.
- Start walking. According to one Harvard study, just 30 minutes of walking a day was linked with a 41% drop in risk for ED. Other research suggests that moderate exercise can help restore sexual performance in obese middle-aged men with ED.
- Eat right. In the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish — with fewer red and processed meat and refined grains — decreased the likelihood of ED. Another tip: a chronic deficiency in vitamin B12 may contribute to erectile dysfunction. A daily multivitamin and fortified foods are the best bets for those who absorb B12 poorly, including many older adults.
- Pay attention to your vascular health. High blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides can all damage arteries in the heart (causing heart attack), in the brain (causing stroke), and leading to the penis (causing ED). Low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and an expanding waistline also contribute. Check with your doctor to find out whether your vascular system — and thus your heart, brain, and penis — is in good shape or needs a tune-up through lifestyle changes and, if necessary, medication.
- Size matters, so get slim and stay slim. A trim waistline is one good defense — a man with a 42-inch waist is 50% more likely to have ED than one with a 32-inch waist. Getting to a healthy weight and staying there is another good strategy for avoiding or fixing ED. Obesity raises risks for vascular disease and diabetes, two major causes of ED. And excess fat interferes with several hormones that may be part of the problem as well.
- Move a muscle, but we’re not talking about your biceps. A strong pelvic floor enhances rigidity during erections and helps keep blood from leaving the penis by pressing on a key vein. In a British trial, three months of twice-daily sets of Kegel exercises (which strengthen these muscles), combined with biofeedback and advice on lifestyle changes — quitting smoking, losing weight, limiting alcohol — worked far better than just advice on lifestyle changes.
- Erectile Dysfunction: A guide to diagnosis and management by Paul Arduca, MBBS, MPH (Melb), GradDipVen (Monash)
- What to do about Erectile Dysfunction, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
- National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearinghouse: “What I Need to Know About Erectile Dysfunction.”
- Capogrosso, P. et al. (2013, July). One Patient Out of Four with Newly Diagnosed Erectile Dysfunction Is a Young Man—Worrisome Picture from the Everyday Clinical Practice. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 10 (7), 1833-1841. Retrieved February 8, 2014, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jsm.12179/abstra