Erectile dysfunction (ED) has come out of the shadows and is actively being discussed in TV commercials and talk shows. It’s estimated that 50% of men over 50 experience erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction is a serious matter, especially to the sufferer, and can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, and relationship problems. Fortunately, it’s a disorder that is better understood today, and as a result, there are many safe ways to address and treat it.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Simply put, erectile dysfunction is the inability of a man to get any erection, get a good erection, or maintain an erection. Despite the misnomer for an erection, “boner,” there is no bone in the penis. There are, though, lots of blood vessels and 2 major sponge-like membranes, called the corpus cavernosum, and a smaller one called the corpus spongiosum, that fill with blood during an erection, making the penis balloon to whatever size nature gave you.
Think of the innards of the penis like a ballast tank waiting to be filled. At the entrance to these are muscles that act like valves. In the flaccid state, these muscles are toned or tightened to restrict blood flow except what is needed to keep the tissues alive. As a result, the penis shrinks or contracts, a situation exaggerated when it’s cold, accounting for the dreaded “shrinkage.”
Normally, when there is sexual stimulation, the brain and spinal cord send signals to the muscles to relax, and blood rushes in to fill the “tanks,” engorging the penis with blood and creating the erection.
So there are a lot of moving parts involved in getting an erection: stimulation, neurological response, changes in blood flow, muscle action, and intact equipment.
Causes Of Erectile Dysfunction
Because there are a lot of steps involved in getting and maintaining an erection, there are many causes that can be either isolated or working together to prevent a man from strutting his stuff.
Depression and anxiety can be an issue as men get older, and can occur for a variety of reasons. Stress about a job, financial pressures, emotional issues in a relationship, loss of a loved one, or just the fear of aging are just a few of the psychological issues that men can face. It’s a well-known adage that sex is 90% mental, so if you aren’t “feeling it,” it’s not going to happen. Men are not typically as willing as women to discuss psychological issues, and thus can act out, either by closing themselves off, or becoming irritable and combative.
Remedy #1 – Counseling
Seek counseling with a mental health professional to deal with depression and anxiety, especially if you don’t have a substantial support group. Sometimes even if you do, it can be uncomfortable at first to discuss these subjects, so start with a neutral party.
The problem of obesity is, pun intended, growing around the world, but especially in the US. Recent estimates have the obesity rate for men aged 40-59 at 45%, and for men over 60 at 43%. The myriad of health problems that can come with obesity include diabetes, heart disease, back and hip disorders, and circulation problems. We’ll discuss those problems later. And men, for the most part, carry their weight in their bellies, resulting in looking like either you’re 2-3 months pregnant or carrying full-term twins!
Let’s address the 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Obesity can affect the physical ability to engage in sex, whether it’s because it’s strenuous, positions are limited, or let’s face it, the penis can’t reach its intended target because of distance to said target (unless you’re really blessed!).
Remedy #2 – Weight Loss
Lose weight. Sounds easy, but the older you get, the harder it is, weight-loss I mean. But, it can be done, and if this is one of the reasons you’re not getting it, the motivation should be strong. It’s widely accepted that eating right is more important than exercise for losing weight, so find an eating plan that you can follow. The more weight you lose, the more energy you’ll have, and the angles for intercourse will be in your favor! You’ll also help combat the other medical problems that obesity can accentuate.
Alcohol And Smoking
These two behaviors very often go together, although smoking has been on the decline for decades. Alcohol, though it can create amorous desires, is in fact a depressant that makes many bodily functions not work efficiently. Getting an erection is one of those functions that alcohol can interfere with, ruining what might have been a wonderful evening.
Cigarette smoking contributes to many of the diseases we will be covering in the next segment, particularly heart disease and atherosclerosis, which can make your ticker weak and your arteries clogged. No blood flow, no boner.
Remedy #3 – Stop smoking and use alcohol in moderation
This can be difficult if you’ve been doing both for a long time, but life is about choices, right? And following this recommendation will help you live longer and perform better!
Medical Conditions And Medications
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by many medical maladies, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, decreased testosterone, and certain medications. These are all treatable conditions, and when treated, can improve sexual performance.
Diabetes particularly can affect nerves, including feet and hands, and the nerves that control the “spigot” that allows blood flow into the penis. If left untreated too long, the damage can be irreversible.
The heart obviously pumps the blood that ultimately pumps you up, so if you have congestive heart failure, a heart attack that weakens your heart muscle, or an irregular heartbeat, your blood flow will be diminished everywhere. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can also accelerate a condition known as atherosclerosis, where plaque builds up in the arteries, including the ones that power your penis, and again blood flow is diminished.
Low testosterone can also be a cause of erectile dysfunction. There are a lot of products boasting better performance with testosterone boosters, but these can be harmful if your testosterone is normal.
There are a lot of common medications for depression, acid reflux, hypertension, and heart disease, such as Prozac, Tagamet, Atenolol, and Verapamil that can contribute to erectile dysfunction. Click here for a more complete list.
Remedy #4 – Get Regular Medical Checkups
Hypertension and even diabetes can be silent killers. You may not know you have them, and by the time you have symptoms, damage can already be done. If you’re over 50, have yearly checkups with your physician to check for these diseases so you can start treatment as soon as possible. Don’t let being flaccid be the first clue! And if you’re already on medications, ask your doctor if there are alternatives that don’t cause erectile dysfunction but still treat the disease.
Remedy #5 – ED Medications
If after following all the other recommendations, you find there’s still a performance problem, then by all means use the erectile dysfunction meds, like Viagra or Cialis. These medications function by relaxing those muscle “valves,” allowing increased blood flow to the penis. I’m told they really work! Sadly, insurance doesn’t cover these medications, but there are ways to get them at prices that won’t break the bank.
Sex is and should be an integral part of any man’s life, no matter the age. It’s time get back in the game!