What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to develop and maintain an erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse or activity for a duration of six months or longer. The incidence of erectile dysfunction increases with age and is affected by lifestyle, chronic disease, psychological factors, neurologic diseases, and several other conditions.
Erectile Dysfunction: The Facts
- Erectile dysfunction increases with age with 40% of men over age 40 and 70% of the men over age 70 suffering from some degree of erectile dysfunction.
- Erectile dysfunction now occurs in 26% of men younger than 40.
- Obesity and diabetes are responsible for 8 million cases of erectile dysfunction in the United States. The majority of men (74%) with erectile dysfunction are overweight which is a BMI over 25.
- Men with erectile dysfunction have twice as many heart attacks and strokes compared to men who do not have erectile dysfunction.
- Erectile dysfunction predates the development of CAD or coronary artery disease by two to five years. Diagnosing ED provides a window of opportunity to modify heart disease risk factors through lifestyle changes.
- The most common cause of natural erectile dysfunction is a vascular disease (blood vessel disease).
- Men with erectile dysfunction are three times more likely to suffer from depression than men without erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction increases the risk of depression by 192%.
- Physical activity lowers the risk of erectile dysfunction.
- Smoking and illicit drug use are more common in younger males who suffer from erectile dysfunction. Smoking doubles the risk of erectile dysfunction. Even passive smoking or second-hand smoke increases the risk of erectile dysfunction.
- Prescription medications are a common risk factor for erectile dysfunction. These medications include those that treat high blood pressure, depression/anxiety, pain, cholesterol, allergies, seizures, and other medications.
Erectile dysfunction is most often related to poor blood flow to the penis. Erectile dysfunction is the “canary in the mine” and suggests that blood flow to other organs is likely compromised. Men with ED should consider further evaluation to rule out coronary artery disease in particular.
Diabetes affects erectile function in a couple of ways; through changes in blood flow, but also by affecting the nerves that regulate erections. Diabetes lowers testosterone levels, too. If you suffer from diabetes you will definitely want to keep it well controlled.
Exercise is a great way to get the blood circulating to that all-important vital organ. Weight loss will help improve erections. Excess fat is inflammatory and impedes blood flow and lowers testosterone which is needed for optimal sexual health.
Stay fit, eat well, control your weight, and your chances of getting erectile dysfunction to go down. Keep a good mental outlook. Depression worsens erectile dysfunction, but so do the drugs used to treat depression. Consider non-pharmacological ways to improve your moods.