Erectile dysfunction is not something that is unusual as men get older. Studies show that by age 50 , there’s at least a 50% chance that you’ve experienced some bouts of ED. In fact, more than 50% of all males between the ages of 40 and 70 years report some level of erectile dysfunction. There are a few reasons for this. First, it’s normal for testosterone levels to decrease with age. This natural process begins when you’re 30, and levels will continue to decrease — at a rate of about 1% a year — for the rest of your life. This hormone is an important part of your sex drive.
Your odds of getting a disease that causes ED as a side effect also increase as you age. This means that if you’re experiencing ED at 50, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible — you may need to be treated for a severe underlying condition.
Physical Effects from ED in Men Over 50
For men in their 50s who do develop ED, the majority will find that it’s caused by an underlying physical health condition.
One of the most common causes of ED in this age group is atherosclerosis. This is a condition where your arteries become clogged with plaque, becoming harder and narrower. As a result, blood can’t flow as freely around your body, supplying your organs with the oxygen and nutrients they need. As erections depend on healthy blood flow to the penis, atherosclerosis can also lead to ED.
It’s important to note that because of this link between atherosclerosis and ED, ED can actually be an indicator of more serious health issues ahead. The NHS offers a free health check service to adults aged 40-74, which checks for cardiovascular (and other) issues. You can find out more on the NHS website.
An AMA study of 4,247 men over 55 years old found that the men who developed ED were more at risk of heart problems – such as high blood pressure, heart disease or strokes. Paying attention to what your body is telling you now could help you avoid more severe illness later on.
Other age-related health conditions can also cause or contribute to ED. These include: cancer and cancer treatments, Parkinson’s disease, and type 2 diabetes.
From physical to psychological
While psychological issues are more likely to be behind ED in younger men, your mind can also play a role in erection problems as you get older. That’s because sexual arousal is a mental response as well as a physical one.
Work stress, relationship problems, and fatigue can all impact your sexual performance. Of course, we all have our off-days but if you find that life stresses are frequently getting in the way of fulfilling sex, you might want to stop and think about what changes you can make to address this.
You could try having sex in the morning when your energy levels are higher or giving yourself more time to relax and unwind before sex. If relationship issues are behind your ED, you might try working on improving communication and spending more quality time with your wife or partner. Perhaps even couples counselling could be a solution.
As we get older it becomes more likely that we’ll experience the loss of those close to us. For some men in their 50s that will mean coping with the death of a parent. Grief can affect many areas of your life, making them more difficult to handle, and your sex life is no exception. Seeking counselling to work through your grief could help address your ED at the same time.
Most older men suffer not ED but erection dissatisfaction
Starting around age 50 (often earlier among smokers and, or, diabetics), erections change. In some men, the process is gradual, in others, it happens more quickly. Either way, older men lose the ability to raise erections solely from sexual fantasies. Direct fondling of the penis becomes necessary. When erections appear, they rise more slowly and do not become as firm as they were during men’s thirties and forties. And minor distractions may cause wilting—the doorbell or an ambulance siren. These changes alarm many men, who jump to the conclusion that they must have ED. If you can still raise erection during masturbation, you don’t. What you have is erection dissatisfaction.
Post-50 erection changes are normal and inevitable. But some lifestyle factors can postpone or even temporarily reverse them: falling madly in love, getting in shape (see below), and making love earlier in the day when you have more energy.
Unfortunately, other factors exacerbate erection dissatisfaction: anxiety, alcohol, many other drugs, relationship problems, and making love when fatigued—late at night after a long day and a big dinner with wine.
Dysfunction to function
Erection depends on blood flow through the penis. Anything that impairs it increases ED risk: smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, being overweight, sedentary lifestyle, more than two alcoholic drinks a day, and fewer than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Avoiding these risk factors does not prevent post-50 erection changes, but it preserves erection function and helps prevent ED.
ED is treatable and starts with changing your lifestyle. Take an inventory of what foods you eat and what you drink. Do you eat foods high in sodium? Do you consume excessive amounts of alcohol? Are you in a healthy relationship? Treatment can consist of exercise, eat your fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water. Also see your doctor and urologist.
Next week recipes for erectile dysfunction.
Resources- The Manual Team