Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/14/2019
When you hear the dreaded words “erectile dysfunction,” do you think of it as a condition that only affects older men? While age is certainly a factor in determining your risk for ED, it can affect men of any age.
Problems with sexual dysfunction can be difficult or embarrassing to talk about, especially for a man in the prime of his life, but it is an issue that affects more people than you may realize. If you’ve been experiencing problems with erectile dysfunction, you are not alone!
Though the men you see in Viagra commercials are generally white-haired senior citizens, the truth of the matter is that a significant percentage of men affected by AD are barely even over the hill. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reports that one out of every four new cases of ED are diagnosed in men under the age of 40.
Research conducted at the Division of Male Infertility at Southern Illinois University suggests that as many as 40% of men in their forties experience sexual dysfunction and 50% of men in their 50's do.
With erectile dysfunction affecting men at younger and younger ages, what can you do to avoid becoming a statistic yourself? It all starts with recognizing the factors which may increase your risk for developing ED and taking steps to correct them, if possible. Here are some of the top risk factors for ED.
Though you may think your youth protects you from experiencing erectile dysfunction, age is just one of the many risk factors that may contribute to ED. Here are the top ten risk factors for erectile dysfunction in men:
Though erectile dysfunction seems to be affecting younger and younger men, awareness of the factors that increase a man’s risk for ED remains low. According to research conducted in Poland, nearly 40% of men undergoing treatment for ischemic heart disease were unable to name any of the top six risk factors for erectile dysfunction.
This is significant because many of the risk factors for ED are either preventable or reversible – or both.
Taking the time to learn about the conditions or habits which may increase your risk for ED is the key to making healthy changes that might prevent the condition from ever developing or, if you already experience symptoms of ED, reverse it naturally. Let’s take a closer look at the top ten risk factors.
Obesity – Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for many health problems, including erectile dysfunction. Research suggests that nearly 80% of men with erectile dysfunction have a BMI of 25 or higher. Having a BMI in the 25 to 30 range increases your risk for ED by 1.5 times and a BMI over 30 increases your risk three-fold.
Medications – Prescription medications often come with a long list of potential side effects and, for many of them, erectile dysfunction makes the list. Some of the medications most likely to cause ED include antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines, chemotherapy drugs, and synthetic hormones.
Hormone Imbalance – Hormones play a role in many essential bodily functions and even a minor imbalance can affect your sexual desire as well as your ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Testosterone is the primary hormone involved in erectile dysfunction, but an imbalance of other hormones caused by thyroid or pituitary problems may also contribute to ED.
Medical Problems – Health problems that affect your circulation (such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension) may increase your risk for ED. Other conditions which may also have an effect include metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, and Parkinson’s as well as other neurological disorders.
Poor Circulation – Often caused by heart disease, unhealthy diet, or vascular damage due to diabetes, poor circulation is one of the biggest contributing factors for ED. If you do not get adequate blood flow to the penis, you won’t be able to achieve or maintain an erection.
Psychological Conditions – Sex and intimacy is just as psychological as it is physical, so mental health issues like anxiety or depression can impact your ability to perform sexually. Stress can also increase your risk for ED because it stimulates the production of hormones like adrenaline which divert blood flow away from the penis to the heart and lungs.
Drug/Alcohol Use – Not only can prescription medications increase your risk for ED, but so can recreational drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can dull physical sensations and heighten psychological problems which may contribute to ED.
Unhealthy Diet – The modern American diet is high in processed carbs, refined sugars, and unhealthy fat. Not does this type of diet affect your health overall, but it contributes to obesity and may inhibit healthy vascular function. The chemicals and artificial additives in processed foods may also affect your testosterone levels.
Tobacco Use – Not only can tobacco use affect your overall health, but the chemicals found in cigarette smoke can damage the lining of your blood vessels, inhibiting healthy circulation. Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that smoking is a major risk factor for impotence in young men and that quitting smoking may improve ED symptoms.
Sedentary Lifestyle – According to data from the CDC, men are becoming increasingly sedentary and it is impacting more than just their waistline. An inactive lifestyle contributes to obesity, poor cardiovascular health, and an increased risk for other medical problems that might lead to ED.
Just because you have one or more of the risk factors discussed above doesn’t mean that you will develop erectile dysfunction. Simply being aware of these risk factors may help you make positive changes to your lifestyle and habits that could decrease your risk.
If you’ve already begun to experience symptoms of sexual dysfunction, take a closer look at this list to see whether your problems might be caused by one of these factors. If so, talk to your doctor about options for treatment and what you can do to manage or even reverse your condition.
Erectile dysfunction is something no man ever wants to experience but if it happens to you, don’t ignore it because it isn’t going to go away unless you do something about it.
Having trouble with erectile dysfunction doesn’t make you any less of a man and you certainly are not alone in your struggles! So, step up to the plate and start making positive changes to turn your ED around.
Insider tips, early access and more.