Erectile Dysfunction in Your 40s
In 30 seconds…
Erectile dysfunction (ED) becomes more common as men get older and around 40% of men in their 40s will experience mild to moderate problems getting or maintaining an erection. The causes for ED in your 40s can be as varied as stress, relationship problems, underlying health conditions, and lifestyle choices.
If you’re experiencing ED in your 40s, it’s important to get a health check-up: ED can be an early warning sign of a serious health problem like cardiovascular disease. As ED is a highly treatable condition, there’s no reason to live with it. You and your partner can still enjoy great sex in your 40s and beyond.
When you hit your fifth decade, life can get quite intense. Your 40s can be a critical time for your career, with promotions or new job opportunities in the pipeline. You and your partner may be navigating your way through the rocky waters of a long-standing relationship. And, of course, there’s a good chance you have kids to care for and support, too. That’s quite a few distractions from your sex life!
But if things have been less than satisfactory in the bedroom, you don’t have to ignore it. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a very common problem as men get older, but it is treatable.
From underlying health problems to stress and depression – let’s tackle the causes behind erectile dysfunction in your 40s.
How Common is Erectile Dysfunction in Your 40s?
Mild to moderate erectile dysfunction (ED) affects around 10% of men per decade of life, so once you get to your 40s you’ve got a 40% chance of experiencing some problems with getting and maintaining an erection that’s firm enough for sex.
Researchers have struggled to pinpoint exactly how prevalent ED is. On the one hand, this is because it’s not something men like to talk about. On the other hand, it’s because men define ED differently as individuals: one man might consider ED to be one failed erection, whereas another might need to have issues on multiple occasions to describe this as ED.
It’s clear, however, that ED does become more common with age – particularly as a result of age-related health conditions.
Physical Causes of ED in Your 40s
Getting an erection is a complex process with numerous different body systems involved – brain, hormones, nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. So when one of these systems is affected by disease, that can have consequences for your erections.
Take the blood vessels, for example. As you get into your 40s and beyond, you’re more likely to suffer from heart disease, clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis), high cholesterol, and/or high blood pressure. When one of these disorders causes a problem with your blood circulation, your penis may not get the blood flow it needs for an erection.
Important note: The NHS offers a free health check for adults aged 40-74, which screens for a variety of cardiovascular diseases. You will also get direct advice on how to lower the risk. Learn more about this health check on the NHS website.
ED is often an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease (CVD). One study showed that men who suffered from ED in their 40s were 50 times more at risk of CVD. Therefore, if you do have ED in your 40s it’s important to seek medical advice. Catching an underlying health condition early will make it (and your ED) more treatable. If you’re registered with a GP, ask them about the free NHS health check.
Lifestyle Choices and ED
Heart problems in your 40s, along with other conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity, are frequently linked to lifestyle choices. These include: smoking, drinking a lot of alcohol, eating a poor diet, and not taking enough exercise. All these lifestyle factors have also been linked to an increased risk of ED.
So it follows that cutting out smoking and excessive drinking, improving your diet, and exercising more can help manage or prevent ED for men in their 40s.
Interestingly, several studies have demonstrated that men following a Mediterranean diet are less likely to suffer from ED. A Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish – all foods that are good for your heart and brain health, and consequently for healthy erections! Check out the DASH diet – an evidence-based long-term diet that actually reduces the risk of cardiovascular issues.
Your 40s tend to be the decade when lifestyle decisions made when you were younger catch up with you, and ED can be one symptom of this. However, you can still turn things around by starting to make healthier choices now. If you give your body a little TLC this could make a huge difference to your sex life.
Psychological Causes Behind ED
With all the pressures life heaps on you in your 40s, it’s common to find yourself experiencing stress or even more serious mental health issues.
Sexual arousal is not just a physical but also a mental or emotional response; if you’re struggling to get in the mood as a result of psychological factors then it’s natural for your erections to suffer, too.
The stress and fatigue of juggling so many different responsibilities in your 40s can contribute to ED. Moreover, depression – perhaps as the result of relationship breakdown or losing a job – can take its toll on your ability to get an erection. Antidepressant medications may also have adverse effects in this area.
You might also find that relationship problems are contributing to your ED. If you and your partner are arguing a lot or struggling to communicate, then this could be affecting your sex life as well.
When there’s a psychological cause for your ED, you may find that counselling, psychotherapy, or relationship counselling will help. Talking about your problems might seem daunting, but remember that ED is a common condition that counsellors hear about regularly. Seeking therapy could be the first step towards getting your life back on track – both in and out of the bedroom.
Erectile dysfunction might be more common once you reach your 40s, but that’s no reason to shrug your shoulders and ignore it. ED can be an early warning sign of a serious medical condition such as cardiovascular disease, so it’s important to get yourself checked out. It could also be an indication that you need to make some lifestyle changes, such as exercising more or eating a healthier diet.
If the stress of life in your 40s is getting to you then there may be a psychological cause for your ED. Talking through the problem with a counsellor or therapist could make all the difference.
Whether you need to improve your physical health, get some counselling, or just take a little blue pill – ED can be treated. Tackle the issue and there’s no reason you can’t have great sex in your 40s, 50s, and beyond…