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Male Aging - Erectile Dysfunction (ED or Impotence)


   Note: As of April 2013 we now have available: 

 Vacuum Erection Devices - Click to View
 

Erectile dysfunction (ED), frequently labeled “impotence,” is a concern of virtually every man over the age of forty. It is defined as either an inability to reach sufficient penile hardness for vaginal penetration or inability to maintain an erection long enough to achieve satisfactory sexual intercourse.

A man’s erection results from a complex combination of physical conditions, hormonal balance, nerve function, circulatory and overall health, as well as external stimuli to the brain and penis. In addition, to achieve an erection and have satisfactory intercourse, the prostate must function properly. Anything that interferes with any of these pathways, including prescription or over-the-counter medications, can cause a problem, either temporarily, or permanently in the case of a severe imbalance, chronic illness, or long-term drug use. Many drugs (especially antidepressants) can cause or exacerbate erectile dysfunction.

A large study done a little more than a decade ago used a self-administered sexual activity questionnaire to determine the incidence of erectile dysfunction in 1300 male subjects between the ages of forty and seventy. The report concluded that the combined incidence of erectile dysfunction ranging from minimal to total impotence was 52 percent of all men in this age range. Additionally, the prevalence of complete impotence tripled from 5 to 15 percent as subject ages neared seventy years. From this and other studies, it is estimated that the number of American men suffering from this condition is from twenty-five to well over thirty million, depending on the source.

Most men have few problems with erectile dysfunction in their youth and expect such youthful vigor to continue forever. However, as the years advance, the health and vitality of the body deteriorates, and the level of sexual vigor drops accordingly. Unfortunately, many men suffering from erectile dysfunction or loss of libido, cannot (or will not) admit to a connection between their overall health and their sexual problems. Fortunately, most such problems can be corrected.

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Many cases of erectile dysfunction are due to impaired blood circulation resulting from an underlying health condition. All body organs and tissues depend on circulating blood to provide necessary nutrients and remove waste products. An organ lacking good blood circulation cannot maintain peak health. The prostate is no exception. It is well supplied with blood vessels and capillaries, and dependent on them to maintain its function. The overall health of the prostate and the nerve bundles that surround it are crucial to sexual performance and satisfaction.

The penis is also dependent on good blood circulation. Like the prostate, it needs an ample blood supply for nourishment. However, aside from general tissue health, the penis requires unimpeded blood circulation to produce an erection for sexual activity. Thus, while some cases of erectile dysfunction are related to hormone imbalances, the problem is more often a direct result of poor health or vascular insufficiency. Any health condition, medication, or physical injury that impedes blood circulation in a man often results in some degree of prostate problems or erectile dysfunction. Many chronic conditions are also a result of decreased blood flow in the body. Thus, erectile dysfunction can be the first symptom of a compromised vascular system, and is often an early symptom of other cardiovascular problems.

There are many health conditions that contribute to vascular problems, and any one of them can cause or exacerbate erectile dysfunction. For many years, impotence was thought to be a side effect or complication of other vascular problems like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high trigliceride levels. However, it is more likely that impotence is the earliest indicator of impaired circulation problems from one of the above conditions. Thus, by resolving problems with erectile dysfunction early and naturally, one may also be preventing or ameliorating other cardiovascular problems.

Several studies have found erectile dysfunction to be prevalent among men with high total cholesterol and low HDL/LDL ratios. High cholesterol and triglyceride levels are well known as strong risk factors for numerous cardiovascular problems. Reducing their levels can help correct erectile dysfunction while also lowering the risk of other problems. These elevated levels can be reduced with prescription medication or herbal remedies. However, since they usually result from a poor diet and lack of exercise, lifestyle and dietary changes are significantly more effective and should be the first choice.

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Often, high cholesterol and trigliceride levels are accompanied by or result in high blood pressure (hypertension), hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), or arteries clogged by cholesterol deposits (atherosclerosis). These conditions all inhibit blood flow in the body, and can be grouped under the general term of vascular or cardiovascular dysfunction.

Diabetes can also cause serious problems. It exacerbates erectile dysfunction by making blood vessels less elastic. Such blood vessels cannot dilate fully and thus restrict blood flow during an erection. Diabetes also deteriorates nerve viability, thus decreasing the sensitivity of the penis. Both effects are magnified when the condition has been present or poorly controlled for many years. Approximately fifty percent
of men with diabetes have erectile dysfunction, and the percentage increases with age. 

Diabetes also has profound effects on the endocrine system, and thus, on hormone levels. A recent study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism measured testosterone levels of 103 men with type-2 diabetes and found that 33 percent of them had low free testosterone levels. The median age of these men was 54.7 years. In this study, the men seemed to have lowered levels of the pituitary hormones that control testosterone production. This is interesting because it suggests that diabetes lowers free testosterone levels by a process unrelated to aging. Essentially, this means that age-related declines in testosterone levels are magnified in the presence of diabetes. This is another good reason for any diabetic to monitor his condition carefully and keep it under control.

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The blockage of veins and arteries due to arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis can also cause or exacerbate impotence by physically diminishing blood flow to the penis. Hypertension is frequently the result of clogged arteries from either condition. When the body’s circulation system is clogged with deposits, the heart must pump harder to move blood around the body, thus raising blood pressure. And even though the heart is pumping harder, blood flow is still diminished from normal.

The obvious conclusion is that conditions that impair blood flow throughout the body affect all organs, including the prostate and the penis. As mentioned before, when the blood supply to any organ in the body is diminished, the health of the organ deteriorates. And, when blood flow to penile arteries is impeded, erectile dysfunction is inevitable. Typically impotence is caused by a combination of several factors, none of which may by itself, be serious enough to warrant a man to seek medical treatment. 

Erectile dysfunction can be quite debilitating to a sexually active man and his partner. But it is often the first symptom of a more serious problem—one of clogged arteries and poor blood circulation. Many studies have confirmed this, including a recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to its authors, data from this large study (9457 men) provides evidence of a strong association between erectile dysfunction and subsequent development of cardiovascular problems. The simple truth is that when blood circulation is poor in one area of the body—the penile arteries—it is very likely deficient in many other parts of the body as well, including arteries that supply the heart (and the brain).

There are many nutrients, herbs and natural products that may help with of erectile dysfunction. See the Supplements section.  Also, there are numerous articles and some audio interviews about Erectile Dysfunction posted in the News section of this website. Click Here to view them.

Also, my book Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life has two chapters on erectile dysfunction, one discusses its causes, and the other some natural techniques that can help resolve it.

Erectile dysfunction or impotence is a major problem affecting many aging men but by improving your health and with some natural techniques, you can overcome it.
 

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