Having problems with erections from time to time is common and shouldn’t be cause for concern. However, if these problems become progressively worse or happen routinely with sex, you may want to speak with your doctor about erectile dysfunction (ED). Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is the inability to develop and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. According to the Urology Care Foundation, ED affects as many as 30 million men.
Although increasing age is the biggest contributing factor, here are six other risk factors for erectile dysfunction that may surprise you:
- You have anxiety at work. Men who work in an environment that causes anxiety and/or depression are more likely to suffer from ED. Erections require the nervous system to trigger them, so if the system is depressed, it can be difficult to trigger and maintain an erection.
- You have diabetes. ED prevalence in men with diabetes ranges from 35-75% and occurs 10-15 years earlier than men without diabetes. Irregular blood sugar can damage the nerves and blood vessels that allow blood flow in the penis.
- You have bad oral hygiene. Research shows that men who suffer from chronic periodontitis are more likely to suffer from ED. Periodontitis is often associated with oral inflammation, which decreases nitric acid production and blood flow.
- You regularly add salt to food. High blood pressure and cholesterol are often associated with high-sodium intake, which restricts blood flow. Restricting blood flow to the penis may be a contributing cause of ED.
- You enjoy riding a bike. Bike riding can desensitize and damage the nerves in the pelvic floor, which can make it difficult for men to get an erection. Scale back on the number of miles you ride on your bike each week and focus on other kinds of exercise if ED is a problem for you.
- You’re trying to reverse hair loss. Certain medications for hair loss, such as Propecia and Avodart, can cause ED because they reduce the amount of dihydrotestosterone in the blood.
Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of erectile dysfunction. There are many treatment options available to improve your quality of life.