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Is erectile dysfunction a normal part of ageing?

It is estimated that 50% of men aged 40-70 experience erectile dysfunction (ED). Therefore, ED is regarded as a normal part of aging. However, as we get older, we are more likely to get certain health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as our body is not functioning as well as it once was. Erectile dysfunction is a condition in itself, however, it is also a symptom of various other health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which are also associated with ageing.

Age related conditions that can lead to ED

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause atherosclerosis, a thickening of the blood vessel walls. This thickening makes the blood vessels narrower and less flexible. An erection is dependent upon adequate blood flow, which occurs when the blood vessels to the penis dilate (widen). If the blood vessel walls are thicker, they cannot dilate, so blood flow is impaired and it can be difficult to achieve and maintain an erection. Over time, high blood pressure treatments may help alleviate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction in relation to high blood pressure. However, the best option is to take steps to avoid high blood pressure in the first place. Regular exercise and a healthy diet should help reduce your chances of experiencing high blood pressure.

Diabetes

Diabetes is when your body has difficulty maintaining proper blood sugar levels. Over time these high blood sugar levels can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves in the body. An erection is dependent upon certain blood vessels being able to dilate to allow the penis to fill with blood. This process is also linked to the signals transmitted by certain nerves, such as the dorsal nerve in the penis. If these nerves are damaged, it may be difficult for the signals involved in achieving an erection. A healthy diet and exercise can reduce your chances of becoming diabetic. However, if you feel you may have any symptoms of diabetes, you should ensure that you get tested, seek treatment and follow dietary advice given by your doctor, to reduce the chances of experiencing long term damage from the condition.

Parkinson’s Disease

Some men with Parkinson’s Disease can experience reduced sex drive and difficulties feeling aroused. This can make it difficult to obtain an erection. The causes of this may be emotional or biological. After a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease many people suffer mental health problems that can have an impact upon their sex life. However, as Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological condition, erectile dysfunction may be caused by altered levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals involved in signalling through nerves) or other changes in the nervous system. Parkinson’s Disease is a neurological condition that usually occurs later in life. The exact cause of Parkinson’s Disease is not yet known, but it is thought that maintaining a healthy diet may help reduce your chances of developing Parkinson’s Disease.

Heart Disease

Previously, it was thought that the connection between heart disease and erectile dysfunction was caused by atherosclerosis - a narrowing of the blood vessels. However, now it is thought that it may be caused by a dysfunction of the blood vessel lining and the muscle that surrounds them. This dysfunction can cause impaired blood flow, leading to atherosclerosis and erectile dysfunction. To avoid heart disease, the NHS recommend eating a healthy balanced diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, giving up smoking, reducing alcohol intake and keeping your blood pressure under control.

Obesity

As people age, they often become less active and less physically fit, this can lead to obesity. Obesity is connected to erectile dysfunction via other health conditions. Obesity is linked to high blood pressure and diabetes which both can cause erectile dysfunction. In morbidly obese individuals, hormone levels can also be affected which could lead to erection difficulties. Maintaining a healthy weight is important in order to avoid associated diseases including erectile dysfunction.

 

Erectile Dysfunction & Prescription Medication

Erectile dysfunction can also be a side effect of various medications. As health often declines with age, you may end up taking more medications than before. Erectile dysfunction is a known side effect for medications that fall into the following categories: high blood pressure drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, Parkinson’s disease medications, antiarryhtmics, prostate cancer medications, chemotherapy drugs, opiate painkillers and others. If you believe you experience ED as a side effect of your medication, you should speak to your doctor about alternative treatments.

 

How to Avoid Erectile Dysfunction

As you age, you may become more likely to develop erectile dysfunction. However, there are several things you can do to try to avoid that happening. Many of the health conditions associated with ED, can be avoided by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Avoiding smoking or excessive drinking, as well as eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly should help you maintain a healthy weight and fitness to reduce your chances of developing ED.

 

How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

If you do experience erectile dysfunction, there are several options available. ED can have psychological or physical causes, but in older men, it is usually physical. Therefore, medications such as Viagra (Sildenafil), Cialis (Tadalafil), Levitra (Vardenafil) or Spedra (Avanafil) can be prescribed to you to treat ED and to help you get an erection. Viagra is also available over the counter as Viagra Connect, so if that works for you, you would not need a prescription. You may need to try several different treatments at different dosages before you find the one that works best for you. There are also options such as Levitra Orodispersible, which can help men who find it difficult to swallow tablets, and Cialis Daily which is a version designed for daily use, ideal for those who have more regular or spontaneous sex.

 

Sources:

https://www.drfelix.co.uk/health-center/erectile-dysfunction-caused-by-prescription-medications/

https://www.drfelix.co.uk/health-center/your-health-and-your-erection/

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