Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/13/2021
Here’s the deal: erection issues are fairly common — and not just for older men.
Erectile dysfunction affects about 30 million American men and a quarter of them are under forty.
As for men over forty? Statistics suggest that over 50 percent of men between the ages of 40 and 70 experience ED at some point in their life.
Given this, it’s helpful for all men to understand what they can do to control their erections and how they can deal with erectile dysfunction.
But, before we get to that important info, it’s important to understand erectile dysfunction — what it is, what causes it, etc.
To understand ED, you first need to know what should happen when you get an erection.
When you get aroused, your brain sends chemicals to your penis’ blood vessels. Blood flow increases and it gets trapped in the corpora cavernosa (two long chambers in the penis).
Erectile dysfunction is when something goes wrong with this process and is defined as not being able to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sex.
As we mentioned before, ED can affect anyone, though it’s most common in men between the ages of 40 and seventy.
In addition to age, here are some of the most common things that can cause ED:
High blood pressure
Type 2 diabetes
Stress, anxiety, or depression
Relationship and other emotional issues
Illegal drug use
Drinking too much alcohol
Making certain lifestyle tweaks could help you prevent ED. But what about if you’re already dealing with erection issues? It’s possible making these changes could help resolve your issues, too.
The following lifestyle changes may help:
Exercise on the regular: Try for 30 minutes of activity each day. This will increase blood flow through your body — including to your penis.
Eat a healthy diet: Stick with nutritious meals that help you maintain a healthy weight and normal blood pressure and cholesterol.
Drink moderately: Avoid alcohol-related ED by limiting the number of drinks you have.
Reduce stress: Meditate, see a therapist, talk to friends — do whatever you can to get rid of stress and anxiety in your life.
Stop smoking: Cigarettes are detrimental to your health and potentially your erections, too — this is, in part, due to how smoking affects circulation. So, ditch the nicotine habit.
Prevention is great and all, but what if you’re already dealing with ED?
Not only can the lifestyle changes above help, but there are also scientifically-backed treatments available to you.
You may be more familiar with the brand name version of this ED medication, Viagra®, which is the most common ED medication on the market.
Sildenafil is in a class of medications called phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (or PDE5 inhibitors) and it requires a prescription.
It works to treat ED by increasing blood flow to the penis during sexual stimulation.
Sildenafil is popular because it’s fast-acting, working within 30 minutes of taking it and lasting for around four hours.
Tadalafil is the generic version of Cialis®, which is another commonly prescribed ED medication. Like sildenafil, it’s a PDE5 inhibitor. This means that it also relaxes blood vessels, to encourage blood flow to the penis.
Tadalafil is often referred to as the “weekend” ED medication because it lasts for up to 36 hours.
This is the active ingredient in Levitra®, another prescription ED medication. It’s similar to sildenafil in that it works within 30 to 60 minutes of taking and lasts for about five hours.
In a clinical trial, 75 percent of men said they achieved a sufficient erection for sex after using the 10mg dose, and 80 percent of men said the same after taking a 20mg dose.
Stendra® is a newer ED medication on the market and avanafil is the active ingredient in it. It’s also a PDE5 inhibitor. The major difference between this and other ED tablets?
It’s thought to work more quickly — after just 15 minutes. It’s also thought to have fewer side effects than its predecessors.
When in doubt, talk it out! If there’s no physiological reason for your ED, it’s worth exploring if it could be rooted in something psychological.
Depression and anxiety can affect your erection and libido. In fact, research shows that 20 percent of ED cases stem from psychological issues.
Speaking with a mental health provider can help you sort out factors that may be affecting your erections and give you tools to work on them.
We’ve talked more about this in our guide to the Psychological Causes of ED.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a penis pump, but there are actually a variety of devices that market themselves as assisting with erectile dysfunction — including vibrators, external support devices and implants.
A penile vibrator is meant to stimulate your penis to get blood flowing to the area. Pumps (also called penile vacuums) pull blood into the penis.
Then, you put a plastic ring around the base of your penis to keep the blood there. Inflatable penile implants work in a similar way.
Then, there’s a newer external support device called the Erektor®. It has two rings attached to either side of a rod. The penis goes into the rings and the rod provides rigidity for intercourse.
The overall point here is this: regardless of which treatment you opt for, we hope the fact that there are so many things you can try brings you some comfort.
Your next step? Talking to your healthcare provider to assess which treatment is best for your specific situation.