Picture of older couple in disagreement over ED problems

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve an erection or the inability to maintain an erection long enough to gain sexual satisfaction.

The most common chronic condition among men is erectile dysfunction and it affects older men far more often than it affects younger men.

There are several reasons for this disparity and today we will be discussing some of the reasons behind the noteworthy difference.

Prevalence of ED in Older Males

Studies have shown that in men over 40, at least 40% suffer from erectile dysfunction in their daily lives. The older men get, the more prevalent the disorder becomes. After the age of 50, the prevalence of erectile dysfunction *increases 18% every year. [1] This is a remarkable *increase but why does it happen?

Until the 20th century, the majority of men did not live long after their reproductive years so there was not much known about erectile dysfunction in older men. As the population began to age, the medical and scientific communities started taking interest in the prevalence of ED in older males.

Early in their studies, researchers and doctors believed that erectile dysfunction was simply a normal part of growing older or that it was a purely psychological issue. Research has now shown this is not necessarily the case. As men age, it does take longer for them to become aroused but, if they face problems achieving an erection on a regular basis, this is grounds for medical concern.

Cardiovascular Disease

Older men are far more likely to be dealing with conditions such as atherosclerosis. Over the years, plaque made of fat, calcium, cholesterol and other substances builds up and hardens in the arteries. This build-up *reduces the blood’s ability to properly flow throughout the body.

This restriction of blood flow can lead to many diseases such as:

  • Coronary Heart Disease (which can result in a heart attack)
  • Carotid Artery Disease
  • Peripheral Artery Disease

In addition to these major health worries, the build-up of plaque in the arteries can also lead to erectile dysfunction. [2]

The ability to achieve and maintain an erection depends entirely on the blood flow to the penis. If this blood flow is disrupted for any reason, it can be difficult or even impossible for a man to get an erection.

It is no surprise then, that the most common cause of erectile dysfunction in older men is *reduced blood flow to the genital region.

Sometimes the occurrence of a heart attack or other cardiovascular event is what triggers erectile dysfunction in otherwise healthy older males.

In other cases, erectile dysfunction can be a warning sign pointing to cardiovascular problems. [3]

In any case, the vascular system has a direct impact on the sexual organ, and as such, problems with the vascular system will naturally result in issues such as erectile dysfunction.


Type 2 diabetes is a major health problem throughout the world. In the United States, it’s the fifth leading cause of death among men.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics have described having issues with erectile dysfunction and they report having these problems up to 15 years earlier than non-diabetic men.

Men who live with diabetes are more than three times as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction compared to men that don’t have diabetes. [4]

One of the reasons for this is that diabetes causes complications in all vascular systems , both macrovascular and microvascular. This results in a *reduction in blood flow throughout the body including blood flow to the male sexual organ.

Men who live with diabetes have a *raised cardiovascular risk, and an *increased chance of being obese. This *increases their risk of living with erectile dysfunction as well.


A man’s weight plays an important role in his sexual health.

The systems and bodily functions affected by a man’s bodyweight are manifold. Being overweight can cause problems with endothelial function and create hormonal imbalances. [5]

When there are problems with the functioning of the endothelial system, blood cannot flow properly which results in the inability to get or maintain an erection.

The body’s sex hormones – in men, testosterone – are heavily impacted by weight. The more overweight a person is, the *lower their testosterone levels will be.

Muscle Waste

As people age, the muscle in their bodies begins to weaken or *deteriorate. The spongy corpora cavernosum muscle within the male sexual organ is not spared by this degeneration.

In younger men, this smooth muscle fiber is part of what makes the penis stand erect. As blood flows in, this sponge-like muscle *swells and *increases in length and diameter. [6]

The collagen fibers that assist with the functioning of the corpora cavernosa muscle *waste away as men age. This results in a muscle that can no longer function as intended. Because the muscle cannot do its job properly, neither can the penis. This leads to erectile dysfunction.


As men grow older, they tend to develop a variety of the above-mentioned health problems. The physicians treating these men will generally prescribe medication to help alleviate these issues.

Unfortunately, many of these medications directly affect the ability to achieve or sustain an erection resulting in erectile dysfunction.

This polypharmacy is of concern because studies show that the more medications an older male is taking, the more likely he is to be affected by erectile dysfunction.

15.9% of men taking 2 or fewer medications report living with erectile dysfunction. When taking more than 10 medications, more than 30% of men reported suffering from this sexual problem. [7]


As you can see, there are several core reasons that older men are far more likely to be diagnosed with erectile dysfunction. Some of these causes will be prevalent in younger men as well but they are more likely to be found in the aged population.

If you are suffering from erectile dysfunction, speak with your doctor about the issue. There are plenty of treatment options to give you back a piece of your youth.


[1] Shiri R, Koskimaki J, Hakama M, Hakkinen J, Tammela TL, Huhtala H, Auvinen A (2003) Prevalence and Severity of Erectile Dysfunction in 50 to 75-Year-Old Finnish Men. J Urol 170(6 Pt 1): 2342-4

[2] Miner M, Kim E (2015) Cardiovascular Disease and Male Sexual Dysfunction. Asian J Androl 17(1): 3-4

[3] Nascimento E, Maia A, Pereira V, Soares-Filho A, Nardi A, Silva A (2013) Sexual Dysfunction and Cardiovascular Diseases: A Systematic Review of Prevalence. Clinics (Sao Paulo) 68(11): 1462-1468

[4] Maiorino M, Bellastella G, Esposito K (2014) Diabetes and Sexual Dysfunction: Current Perspectives. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes 7:95-105

[5] Skrypnik D, Bogdanski P, Misiialik K (2014) Obesity—Significant Risk Factor for Erectile Dysfunction in Men. Pol Merkur Lekarski 36(212): 137-41

[6] Udelson, D (2007) Biomechanics of Male Erectile Dysfunction. J R Soc Interface 4(17): 1031-1048

[7] Londono DC, Sleazak JM, Quinn VP, Van Den Eeden SK, Loo RK, Jacobsen SJ (2012) Population-Based Study of Erectile Dysfunction and Polypharmacy. BJU Int 110(2): 254-9

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