For most men, the ability to get and maintain an erection does decline slowly as they age. However, there is no specific age when a man stops being able to get complicated. The ageing process affects every man differently, and many factors play a role. With healthy lifestyle choices and, in some cases, medical treatment, many men can preserve good erectile function well into old age.
Why Getting Hard Becomes More Difficult With Age
Erections build when the penis fills with blood and rigidifies. This method is based on a complex neuronal, vascular, hormonal, and psychological interaction. As man get older, changes occur in all of these systems that can make achieving and sustaining an erection more challenging:
– The nerves supplying the penis can become less sensitive due to neuropathy, reducing arousal signals to the brain.Parkinson’s disease and other neurological illnesses can affect libido as well.
– The blood vessels supplying the penis may develop blockages and lose elasticity due to conditions like atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. This restricts blood flow into the penis.
– Testosterone levels decline with age, typically at a rate of 1% per year after age 30. Low testosterone, or “low T,” negatively impacts sexual desire and the penis’s physical response.
– Medical conditions that become more common with age, like obesity, diabetes, prostate cancer or surgery, and chronic pain conditions, can also significantly increase erectile difficulties.
– Emotions and psychological challenges also play a role. Stress, negative body image, depression, and relationship issues may occur more often with ageing.
While the physical changes associated with ageing lead to erectile challenges in most man, the severity and specific onset age varies tremendously based on genetics, health status, medications, and lifestyle factors.
What Is Considered Normal?
Due to the range of physical and psychological changes affecting sexual response, experts don’t associate any specific age with the end of sexual functioning or define an age at which erection challenges become abnormal.
However, research provides some general expectations about changes in erectile function over time:
– Frequency of erectile difficulties increases gradually with age. Some issues occur in around 2% of man under age 40, around 9% of men in their 40s, around 15% in their 50s, around 34% in their 60s, and around 70% of man over age 70.
– In studies asking men aged 65-80 to grade their erectile function on a scale, around 60% of man aged 65-69 grade themselves at the highest functioning level. This declines to around 30% of man age 75-80.
– Several studies found the prevalence of erectile dysfunction to be 26-64% in man over age 60 and up to 77% in men over age 80.
While erectile robustness typically declines slowly across ageing populations, sexual satisfaction does not have to decline with age. The frequency or firmness of erections bears little relation to sexual happiness in many older men. Instead, factors like the emotional and physical intimacy in a relationship have a more significant influence.
Men who maintain erectile function into old age often share certain protective lifestyle factors like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation. Developing coping strategies to deal with regular changes is also essential.
When Getting Hard Becomes Difficult
At any age, changes in erectile function should prompt a trip to a doctor to identify possible underlying causes. Two fundamental changes men of any age should take seriously are:
1. Inability to get or keep an erection 25% or more of the time when attempting intercourse.
2. Inability to produce an intense, strong erection for penetration and completion of intimacy.
When persistent erectile challenges occur, it requires prompt medical attention because it may indicate an underlying chronic illness in need of treatment, such as:
– Clogged blood vessels – warning of a potential heart attack or stroke
– Uncontrolled diabetes causing nerve damage
– Low testosterone – can lead to loss of muscle mass and bone density
– Medication side effects – many prescription drugs impede erectile function
– Psychological disorder – untreated depression, stress, and anxiety commonly cause sexual dysfunction
Sudden or recent onset of erectile dysfunction also deserves medical assessment because it’s more likely to be caused by a health condition that needs diagnosis.
Treatments To Improve Erectile Function
The good news is multiple effective erectile treatments exist today, including:
Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, exercising, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and stress relief techniques can help restore erectile function.
Prescription oral medications: Drugs contain sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and avanafil (Stendra) to increase the flow of blood to the penises. They work well for the majority of man.
Injections: injecting a drug like alprostadil into the penis produces an erection in almost all men though some pain may occur.
Vacuum devices: employ a pump to boost the flow of blood to the penises manually. Then, wrap a ring around the base of the penises to maintain the erection.
Penile implants are surgically implanted devices that induce an erection using inflatable or flexible rods. This option has high patient satisfaction rates but requires surgery.
Counselling: For cases where psychological or relationship concerns undermine erectile abilities, counselling with a sex therapist often helps.
With treatment, around 50-75% of men with erectile dysfunction see significant improvement in function regardless of age. It’s also essential for partners to adjust expectations as bodies change with age. Compromising on sexual frequency or activities while maintaining intimacy and closeness is essential.
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Use It or Lose It? Perspective on Maintaining Sexual Function
Popular opinion says that staying sexually active preserves erectile function while abstinence accelerates decline – essentially, “use it or lose it.” But does science support this belief that men must maintain high activity levels to fight off malfunction?
Research provides mixed evidence:
Some supportive studies found:
– Sexually inactive men showed steeper declines in erectile function over time compared to sexually active men.
– More frequent sex protection against developing erectile issues in men aged 50 and over during a 5-year follow-up.
– Sexual activity in older age increased genital nerve sensitivity and preserved muscularity in animal studies.
Alternatively, other well-designed studies found no difference or even opposite results:
– High levels of sexual activity at age 50 did NOT protect against developing erectile dysfunction later in life.
– Erection quality declined similarly in older men with infrequent and frequent sexual activity.
– Older men who resumed sexual activity showed immediate improvement, but this wasn’t sustained long-term.
The bottom line seems to be that while staying sexually active into older age doesn’t necessarily prevent erection changes, it likely helps slow changes for some men. It also preserves the valuable emotional intimacy benefits of sex.
However, maintaining sexual frequency mainly to preserve function is misguided. If medically safe, older men can enjoy sex according to their changing abilities and relationship needs rather than meet any “use it or lose it” expectations.
Living Your Best Sex Life at Any Age
While most men do face new erectile challenges over time, medical help and perspective shifts enable ongoing sexual enjoyment well into old age for many couples. The key is normalizing changes as a natural phase of life rather than a source of shame while intervening if function impairs relationships.
Here are some final tips for living your best sex life as you age:
– Monitor changes and see your doctor if worrisome erectile function shifts occur.
– Discuss supplements like L-arginine that may support blood flow if interested, under medical guidance.
– Eat healthy, exercise, reduce stress, and take good care of medical problems.
– If Single, consider dating only those accepting of sexual changes or explore alternatives to intercourse.
– For couples, stay affectionate through cuddling and non-penetrative play if needed.
– Try erection medications, devices, or counselling when appropriate.
– Share concerns, expectations, and acceptance openly with your partner.
With the proper guidance, changes don’t spell the end of intimacy or pleasure. Expect evolution rather than loss in your sexual connection, and continue cherishing each other at every age.