Erectile dysfunction (ED) is something that a significant proportion of men will have to deal with at some point in their lives, particularly as they get older. Indeed, it estimated that as many as half of all men between the ages of 40 and 70 will experience ED to some degree.
Anxiety or Depression are also the psychological causes of ED. But for many men with ED the issue is a question of biology.
Typically, physical causes of ED manifest themselves in two ways - either through the narrowing of the blood vessels going to the penis, or due to a disruption of the nervous system, impairing impulses between your brain and genitals.
In both cases, there can be a whole number of contributing factors, from medication, to hormone levels and injury. But often, our lifestyles can also exacerbate, or even be the sole cause of the problem. So if you have experienced ED, consider if any of the below lifestyle factors could be behind it.
Anyone who smokes will have seen the warnings on the packet accompanied by a picture of a suggestively drooping cigarette and it's true - smoking can lead to ED. In fact, smokers are twice as likely to suffer erection problems as non-smokers and the more you smoke, the more likely ED becomes.
This is because the chemicals found in cigarettes can damage the arteries and cause fatty deposits to accumulate, restricting blood flow to your penis. In addition, the nicotine found in tobacco causes the blood vessels to constrict, again reducing blood flow.
The dreaded 'brewer's droop' is a well-known side-effect of trying to get it on after having too much to drink, but in most cases this is a temporary problem that goes away after sobering up. However, if you drink excessively on a regular basis, alcohol can cause to long-term sexual health problems that won't go away even when you're sober.
This is because over time excessive intake of alcohol can cause significant damage to the nervous system, causing the transmission of the signals that travel from the brain to the penis to slow down to such an extent that an erection becomes impossible.
Heavy drinking can also lead to the lowering of testosterone levels in men, causing them to lose their libido and making it harder for them to get sexually aroused.
As well as certain prescribed medicines, a range of recreational drugs have been shown to cause erectile dysfunction, including cannabis, heroin and cocaine. This can happen in different ways depending on the drug.
Different drugs, for example, can damage the nervous system, effect circulation and decrease testosterone levels, all making an erection less likely.
Lack of exercise
A sedentary lifestyle has also been shown to be a factor in ED. Keeping busy and active helps to increase blood flow, lower stress and boost testosterone, which all help in achieving an erection. Lack of exercise can also lead to obesity, which is also known to cause erectile dysfunction.