More than 18 million American men over age 20 have erectile dysfunction, and about 600,000 men age 40 - 70 experience erectile dysfunction to some degree each year.
For most men, erectile dysfunction is primarily associated with older age. While ED affects less than 10% of men in their 20s, and 5 - 17% of men in their 40s, about 15 - 34% of men in their 70s have ED.
Nevertheless, ED is not inevitable with age. In a survey of men over 60 years old, 61% reported being sexually active, and nearly half derived as much if not more emotional benefit from their sex lives as they did in their 40s.
Severe erectile dysfunction often has more to do with age-related disease than age itself. In particular, older men are more likely to have heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure than younger men. Such conditions and some of their treatments are causes of erectile dysfunction.
Smoking. Smoking contributes to the development of erectile dysfunction, mainly because it increases the effects of other blood vessel disorders, including high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Alcohol Use. Heavy drinking can cause erectile dysfunction. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and impairs sexual function.
Drug Abuse. Illicit drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana can affect sexual function.
Lack of Exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity and other health problems associated with erectile dysfunction.
Review Date: 07/20/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.