Is Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Inevitable With Age?

A key element in a man’s life is an optimal erectile function for satisfactory sexual intercourse. 

However, erectile dysfunction is not uncommon. Many men deal with problems that make it difficult, or almost impossible, for them to have penetrative sex. 

For most men, this problem is a source of embarrassment and low self-esteem. They usually believe it happens to them only. 

When left unresolved, erectile problems can affect relationships with their partners. 

Sexual difficulties tend to worsen as men age and become more common. Is ED one of them? 

Is it inevitable for men to develop this sexual dysfunction as they age? Read on to learn more about the prevalence of erectile dysfunction by age.

What is erectile dysfunction?

Also known as impotence, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common medical problem wherein a man cannot achieve and maintain an erection long enough for pleasurable intercourse. 

Although no specific time period is part of the ED definition, it has been suggested that this condition occurs when the problem persists for at least six months. It’s one of the most common sexual problems, along with premature ejaculation

Erectile difficulties can be either a short- or long-term problem. Many men will develop some problem with erectile function at some point in their lives. 

Even though men are often reluctant to seek help for this problem, ED is manageable in most cases. If you struggle to get and maintain an erection, and it happens quite frequently, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment to see your healthcare provider or urologist. They will recommend adequate ED treatment for your symptoms.

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What causes erectile dysfunction?

Sexual arousal in men is an intricate process that involves the brain and blood flow as well as hormones, emotions, nerves, and more. An erection results from increased blood flow to the penile area. 

Direct contact with the penis or sexual thoughts can trigger sexual arousal and induce a chain of reactions that increase blood flow to the penis

When a man is sexually excited, a muscle in their penile blood vessels relaxes. As a result, blood flow goes through penile arteries and fills two chambers, called the corpora cavernosa. When that happens, the penis becomes rigid and stiff, i.e., you have an erection.

Since multiple factors are involved in sexual arousal and erectile response, causes of ED can be problems affecting any of them. Numerous causes can lead to erectile dysfunction, but we can classify them into two categories: physical and psychological.

Physical causes

The most common physical causes of ED include heart disease, coronary artery disease, overweight/obesity, vascular disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and low testosterone

Other physical causes of this male sexual dysfunction include Peyronie’s disease, smoking, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, drug or alcohol addiction, some medications, among others. 

Psychological causes

On the flip side, psychological causes of ED include stress, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, and problems in a relationship or other aspects of life.

In most cases, a combination of different factors causes erectile dysfunction. 

When it comes to ED, it’s also useful to mention this sexual dysfunction is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly in men with metabolic syndrome.

Risk factors for ED

Generally speaking, any man can develop erectile dysfunction. Some factors increase the risk of this sexual problem. 

The more common ED risk factors include:

In other words, anything that affects blood flow and sexual arousal can contribute to the risk of erectile dysfunction. For example, smoking restricts blood vessels and impairs blood flow which can contribute to difficulty achieving an erection. Mental health problems put you at risk of ED because the brain regulates response to sexual stimulation. 

Erectile dysfunction prevalence by age

Although it’s easy for men to think others don’t struggle with ED, the reality is different. 

Numbers show that around 30 million men in the United States have erectile dysfunction. 

This sexual problem is more prevalent as men age. What’s more, it affects around 10% of men per decade of life. 

For example, around 40% of men develop ED at the age of 40, and about 70% of men have erectile dysfunction by the time they’re 70 years old. According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, the prevalence of complete erectile dysfunction (severe ED) jumped from 5% in men in their 40s to 15% in 70-year-old men. That means age is a parameter that is most strongly associated with erectile dysfunction.

One study showed that the global ED prevalence ranges from 3% to 76.5%, and it is strongly associated with increasing age.

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Is erectile dysfunction inevitable with age?

Age is an important risk factor for the development of erectile dysfunction, and it can also affect other aspects of sexual functioning. As men get older, their risk of ED increases. 

Although age plays a role in this sexual problem, it’s not a normal part of aging. In other words, older age doesn’t necessarily mean you’re bound to experience erection problems. 

For example, a study from the American Journal of Medicine confirmed that age, indeed, is positively associated with the development of ED symptoms

But, this sexual dysfunction was also strongly related to one or more cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes. Also, erectile dysfunction was linked to a lack of physical activity.

This means that ED isn’t just about age. It’s about overall health and problems you develop along the way. 

As men age, they often develop heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems which are associated with erectile dysfunction. Due to low testosterone, many men are prone to weight gain, which is also a risk factor for ED. 

At the same time, a sedentary lifestyle is widespread. Most people don’t get enough physical activity, which also translates to a higher risk for cardiovascular problems, metabolic syndrome, weight gain, and all this can contribute to erectile dysfunction. 

Erectile dysfunction goes beyond age. An older man doesn’t necessarily struggle with erectile difficulty just because of his age. Many older men can still engage in sexual activity. On the other hand, younger men may struggle with erectile problems. 

Other factors are involved here. For that reason, men need to see their doctors regularly to manage existing health problems or prevent them. This can also lower your risk of ED.

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Lifestyle changes and natural remedies for ED

Problems with an erection don’t have to be an integral component of getting older. There’s a lot every man can do to decrease the risk of erectile dysfunction or manage it. 

Lifestyle changes are crucial. The good news is that subtle changes in your daily life and certain natural remedies can significantly improve your erectile function. These include:

1. Well-balanced diet 

The risk of ED is lower among men who eat a Mediterranean diet. The main characteristics of the Mediterranean diet are versatility and the abundance of different foods you can eat. 

It puts a strong emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, but you can also eat meat once a week. The most important thing is to reduce or avoid heavily processed foods, junk food, and other unhealthy foods.

2. Exercise 

Physical activity can protect against ED because it improves blood flow, supports cardiovascular health, promotes mental health, and it also helps you slim down or maintain weight in a healthy range. All these factors are important for proper erectile response.

3. Get enough sleep 

A good night’s rest getting 7-8 hours of sleep keeps you energetic, positively influences your testosterone level, and can help you manage ED.

4. Weight loss 

Since excess weight is a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction, losing weight is an important management strategy.

5. Stress management 

Unresolved stress has a major impact on erectile response. For that reason, make sure to manage your stress in a healthy manner. Stress can also contribute to low T and thereby pave the way to erectile struggles.

6. Try supplements 

Dietary supplements can help increase sexual desire, manage erectile dysfunction, and improve sexual health

You may want to look for ingredients such as Vitamin D, l-arginine, l-carnitine, red ginseng, Tribulus Terrestris, among others. Just make sure to choose reliable brands.


Erectile dysfunction is a treatable and manageable condition. Age is one of the most significant factors for the development of ED. 

As men get older, they are more likely to develop this condition. But it’s not the rule. 

Your overall health plays a role here. Older men are more likely to experience cardiovascular and other problems that are linked to ED. Taking care of your health can also take care of your sexual function. 

Lifestyle modifications are a more practical erectile dysfunction treatment because they tackle the root causes of this problem.

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  1. Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2021 Aug 12]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan.
  2. Rew KT, Heidelbaugh JJ. Erectile Dysfunction. Am Fam Physician. 2016.
  3. Nunes KP, Labazi H, Webb RC. New insights into hypertension-associated erectile dysfunction. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2012.
  4. Kessler, A., Sollie, S., Challacombe, B., Briggs, K., & Van Hemelrijck, M. (2019). The global prevalence of erectile dysfunction: a review. BJU International, 124(4), 587-599.
  5. Selvin, E., Burnett, A., & Platz, E. (2007). Prevalence and Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction in the US. The American Journal Of Medicine, 120(2), 151-157.

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