Erectile dysfunction – when a man can’t get or keep an erection that’s hard enough to have intercourse – is not uncommon, especially as men get older. Almost a third of the 800 Australian men aged over 35 who took part in the study developed erection problems that made sex a no-go. These findings are backed up by US research on men of the same age. Mind you, it’s not just older men who suffer: other research shows that young guys have erection problems too.
At the start of the Australian study, the men were asked questions about their sexual and physical health. Five years later, they came back to the clinic to answer the same questions. The researchers could then try to work out the reasons for any changes in whether the men could get an erection and how often they felt in the mood for sex.
It’s not all in the mind
The biggest risk factors for drooping erections aren’t psychological but physical, the study found: problems like being overweight or not getting a good night’s sleep. In a way that’s good news – when there are physical causes to ED, making lifestyle changes are often all that’s needed to help men get back in form.
In fact, that’s just what the research showed – about one-third of the men who had ED at the start of the study were back to normal at the five-year follow-up. These were men that hadn’t taken medication and were naturally overcoming their erection problems through lifestyle changes.
So what sorts of lifestyle changes can help? Eating better, exercising more, losing weight, and making sure you get enough sleep can make a major difference. These changes can also help improve other physical causes of ED, like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Though physical causes are usually at the root of ED, sometimes psychological or relationship problems are involved. Being depressed can definitely affect your sex life, and in the study, it was linked to erection problems in a major way.
Stress in a relationship is also known to put a damper on erectile function, and though the Australian researchers didn’t ask the men to go into details about their relationships, problems with a partner like not being able to communicate about sex can also cause ED. That’s where there’s more good news. Improving communication and working out relationship problems is definitely doable, either together as a couple or through counselling.
The person in the picture is a model. This article was first published on April 16, 2014.