There’s an ongoing debate concerning the relationship between age and erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. Some argue that only men over forty suffer from this condition, mainly because as they age, their immunity weakens.
However, this argument has taken a surprising turn, given the high number of people under forty diagnosed with ED. So, what is the actual cause of erectile dysfunction, and just how common is erectile dysfunction?
- What causes erectile dysfunction?
- How common is erectile dysfunction in younger men?
- How common is erectile dysfunction in older men?
- What can you do to minimize erectile dysfunction?
There are varying factors that can cause erectile dysfunction, perhaps contributing to a majority of cases reported. These factors are physical, lifestyle-oriented, psychological, and also due to outside factors, such as substance abuse and medication.
Let’s take an in-depth look at these factors, to help understand the causes of erectile dysfunction.
Spinal Cord Injury
Should a spinal injury occur, nervous coordination between the brain and penile muscles could be affected. And, having looked at the prevalence of most cases caused by this condition, this could be one of the contributing factors to erectile dysfunction in men of all ages.
Penile injuries are another major cause of erectile dysfunction. When the penis is injured, the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves are realigned, making it difficult to get an erection. While this may occur to only a small number of people, it is still a significant cause of the condition.
Obesity causes the blood vessels to compact, reducing blood flow to the penile region. Unlike in the past, when erectile dysfunction was only prevalent in older men, young people are also suffering from obesity-induced ED more frequently in modern times.
Consumption of fatty, fried foods, and not just psychological causes, is a major contributing factor towards erectile dysfunction in younger men.
Diabetes is a major cause of ED in both younger and older men. Diabetes causes an overall reduction in blood flow in the body, which leads to flaccid or weak erections, and is one of the factors contributing to how common erectile dysfunction is.
Anxiety alters the mind in a way that makes having a sustained erection almost impossible. It is one of the leading causes of erectile dysfunction due to psychological causes in younger men. Anxiety may cause erections that don’t last long or even prevent erection altogether.
Unlike anxiety, which is short term, depression is a long-term condition that must be managed. Depression devastates a man’s ability to have and sustain a quality erection. If one is depressed, they will find it extremely hard to get aroused regardless of their interest in intercourse at the time. The sex hormones that are responsible for an erection are severely inhibited, and this can result in near-permanent erectile dysfunction.
Some medications alter sex hormones, such as testosterone, which might affect the ability of a man to get erect. Young men who take antidepressants are more likely to get ED compared to those who do not.
Alcohol and Drugs
There is a close relationship between erectile dysfunction and blood purity. The probability of an alcoholic or drug addict developing ED is high, compared to that of a sober person. The worrying statistics of drug abuse among the youth also show why erectile dysfunction due to psychological causes in younger men is becoming ever more prevalent.
The rate at which younger men, mostly under 40, are being diagnosed with erectile dysfunction is alarming. However, erectile dysfunction in younger men, as this research study shows, is not caused by anxiety alone. There are several factors which might result in ED in young men.
Endocrine disorders, such as adrenal deficiency and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, may induce ED in young men.
There is a significant association between the mental state of a young man and the quality of his erections. It is common to find erectile dysfunction in young men due to psychological factors.
For example, a young man suffering from depression is likely to develop ED faster than one who is healthy. A survey carried out on 800 American students showed that 13 percent of the respondents suffered from ED, mainly associated with conditions related to depression.
In a separate survey, involving Swiss men between 18-25 years, 30 percent of the respondents suffered from ED. The depression was associated with various lifestyle factors such as drug abuse and toxic relationships.
Prolonged anxiety leads to depression, which affects erections. For instance, a young man will first be concerned about the quality of the erection he gets before the condition advances to complete failure at getting an erection. Antidepressants can also lead to depression in young men.
Metabolic and Cardiovascular Conditions
Montorsi’s hypothesis states that penile blood flow precedes that of coronary and carotid arteries. Clinically, this means that a person is likely to get erectile dysfunction before a cardiac disease.
In young men, the condition can be more severe than in older men. Young men suffering from low metabolism are more likely to suffer from ED than those with active routines. This is because their blood flow is slower, and it also means their erections are also expected to be weaker.
Erectile dysfunction has always been prevalent in men over 40. The main reason why older people are affected is because of failing health. Conditions such as atherosclerotic heart disease, dyslipidemia, and diabetes mellitus are common in older men and are responsible for ED.
According to a report from the Massachusetts Aging Study, men aged 40-49 and 60-69 have a risk of developing erectile dysfunction by 1.2 and 4.6 present per annum, respectively. Several factors lead to erectile dysfunction in older men, including:
Reduced Testosterone Levels
As men age, their testosterone levels go down. Men between the ages of 50 and 70 have 50 percent lower testosterone levels than men between the ages of 20 and 40.
Although low testosterone levels do not have a direct impact on ED, research studies have found that it reduces libido in men, which is one of the symptoms of ED. Therefore, low testosterone levels can be a significant cause of erectile dysfunction in older men.
Older men are more likely to suffer from hypertension than younger men. As a person ages, their corporal vessels become more rigid due to collagen buildup. Hypertension also leads to a dysfunction of the endothelium, which has a direct link to the penile muscle function. When the endothelium is damaged, it results in erectile dysfunction.
Depression and a Lack of Physical Activity
Depression is one of the causes of erectile dysfunction in older men. Older men are severely affected by selective serotonin uptake, which takes place as a result of depression and consequently leads to ED.
Older men are also physically weaker. If they engage in activities that require the heavy use of physical energy, their erections can become weak. A research study concluded that older men who participated in less physical activities were more likely to be sexually active than men who engaged in strenuous physical activities.
Hyperlipidemia is a health condition that causes damage to the endothelium, which is responsible for maintaining an erect penis. This situation is common in older men and results in ED if left untreated. The primary treatment used on people suffering from hyperlipidemia is statins, which improve erections.
Vascular and Penile Morphological Alterations
When the normal functioning of the endothelium changes, the chances of getting ED increase. As a person ages, the endothelium is affected due to the deposit of fats and products.
Scientific research shows that 80 percent of the cases of ED in older men are due to a malfunction of the vascular muscles. Conditions such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes mellitus change the structure of the endothelium. This further increases the risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Clogging of the atherosclerotic muscles also causes the vascular endothelium to lose its original shape, which also increases the risk of developing erectile dysfunction in older men.
Type-2 Diabetes is more common in older men and is also a contributor to the causes of erectile dysfunction. Older men who suffer from diabetes mellitus are at a higher risk of suffering from ED than healthier ones. Diabetes mellitus in men is also resistant to treatment, which makes it easier for impotence and erectile dysfunction to manifest.
Coronary Artery Disease
When the endothelium is damaged, blood flow to the heart and body is reduced, leading to complications such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Men who have coronary artery disease are likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction.
Urologists and sex therapists have suggested several precautionary measures that men can use to prevent and manage erectile dysfunction.
Keep Weight Under Control
Obese men are at a higher risk of suffering from erectile dysfunction than men with a healthy BMI. Obesity leads to type-2 diabetes, which can damage the nerves to the penis.
Keep Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in Check
High blood pressure results in hypertension, which might damage the blood vessels supplying blood to the penis. High cholesterol, on the other hand, could lead to kidney stones, which affect blood flow as well.
Men are advised to visit their general practitioner to check their cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and then seek treatment if necessary.
Exercise keeps the body fit and removes toxins. Research studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to get erectile dysfunction since their blood flow and penile nerves are active.
Avoid Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Drinking in moderation, especially red wine, is very healthy. However, abusing alcohol and other drugs can damage the nervous system, leading to erectile dysfunction. Men are advised to regulate the amount of alcohol they consume and avoid illegal drugs altogether.
Keep a Heart-Healthy Diet and Take Supplements
It is advisable to eat only healthy, wholesome, and organic foods if possible to keep from developing erectile dysfunction.
There is a significant relationship between heart health and the ability to get and sustain an erection. People who consume whole grains, red wine, fish, vegetables, and oils are more likely to have firm and prolonged erections.
Options like the Mediterranean diet lead well to sexual health. Supplements such as Viasil, which is all-natural and full of ingredients like Gingko Biloba, ginseng, and pomegranate, also help to improve men’s sexual performance.
Stress is an inevitable part of the human condition. Men can prevent stress by engaging in healthy lifestyles, eating well, managing finances, exercising, and avoiding toxic relationships. Meditation and proper self-care can also help. When a person avoids distractions, their mental and physical health remains stable and results in a healthier sex life.
So, just how common is erectile dysfunction? Given the stressful lives we lead today, the rise in alcohol and substance abuse, and the depletion of nutrients in our food, it seems it is, unfortunately, a prevalent condition.
Erectile dysfunction has little to do with one’s age and more with one’s health and lifestyle choices. It is common to find men in their 80s who are sexually active, while a man in his 20s might struggle with erectile dysfunction.
Men should avoid activities that might affect their concentration, avoid drugs, and maintain a heart-healthy diet should they wish to keep a healthy sexual regimen. Taking supplements like Viasil, which you can order here, have also been shown to help tremendously.
The common perception is that erectile dysfunction is more prevalent in older men. However, we have seen that it also commonly occurs in younger men, and unfortunately, it occurs more frequently than we think.