In the United States, about 30 million men have some form of erectile dysfunction, according to research conducted by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Erectile dysfunction can occur in men of any age, though it’s most common in those who are older. Despite this, it’s not a normal part of aging. There are many causes of erectile dysfunction, from emotional to physical. However, most people are unaware of a few risk factors that could affect your chances of developing this condition.
Understanding Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction is a condition in which you are not able to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. It can be a long-term or short-term problem.
There are a few types of erectile dysfunction. One type is vascular erectile dysfunction, which results from issues with the blood vessels that send blood to the penis or the valves that hold blood. This is the most common form of erectile dysfunction.
Neurogenic erectile dysfunction occurs as a result of nerve problems that stop signals from traveling from your brain to your penis. It can occur after trauma, radiation therapy, or conditions like spinal stenosis and multiple sclerosis.
Hormonal erectile dysfunction occurs when you experience testosterone deficiencies, while psychogenic erectile dysfunction involves psychological causes.
Surprising Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction
Most men are aware that blood pressure issues, antidepressants, and even drinking alcohol can cause erectile dysfunction. Still, there are some surprising factors that can make your chances of dealing with this problem more likely.
1. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops and restarts many times as you sleep. This irregularity leads to poor rest. Scientists have noticed that men who have sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction.
The reason is not entirely clear, but it could be because the lack of sleep leads to dips in testosterone levels. Sleep apnea also restricts oxygen. Testosterone and oxygen are both crucial for maintaining healthy erections.
Sleep apnea also leads to fatigue and potentially higher stress levels, all of which impact sexual function. Scientists have found that treating obstructive sleep apnea can also help erectile dysfunction symptoms.
2. High Cholesterol
Having high blood cholesterol levels could also put you at a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Perhaps the most common cause is the narrowing of blood vessels, also called atherosclerosis. High cholesterol levels can make this more likely to occur.
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the blood that your cell membranes need and that helps produce certain hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. At high levels, however, cholesterol builds up in artery walls and causes plaque, which narrows them.
When that occurs, your penis doesn’t receive the amount of blood it needs to get and maintain an erection.
Although maintaining an active lifestyle tends to help with erectile dysfunction, cycling could be causing more harm than good.
Hard bicycle seats often press on the perineum, which is the area between the scrotum and the anus, causing a compression of blood vessels. The compression makes it more difficult for the penis to get the needed blood flow.
Scientists recommend using a softer seat or taking shorter rides to prevent the problem. Make sure to speak with your doctor about this if you suspect cycling could be causing erectile dysfunction issues.
4. Canned Foods
Perhaps one of the most surprising risk factors of erectile dysfunction is the frequent eating of canned foods. Cans that hold food often contain the chemical bisphenol-A, also called BPA. BPA can affect your hormones, stimulating the production of female sex hormones and suppressing male sex hormones.
5. Certain Medications
Lots of medications have the potential to affect sexual function, especially in men. This is because they can interfere with hormone pathways.
One of these types of medications is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications are antidepressants that function by increasing the levels of serotonin in the body, elevating your mood. The problem is that serotonin decreases sex drive.
Blood pressure medications may also affect sexual function. Diuretics or ACE inhibitors decrease the blood flow that reaches the penis, making an erection more difficult to achieve.
Other medications that could affect sexual function are those that treat Parkinson’s disease, antihistamines, and even non-steroidal anti-inflammatory disease. It is always a good idea to speak with your doctor about the side effects of any medications you take and to work with them to find alternatives.
6. Leading a Sedentary Lifestyle
Another factor that can put you at risk of developing erectile dysfunction is leading a sedentary lifestyle. Being sedentary can cause decreased blood flow. Not leading an active life also makes it harder for your heart to function at its best.
Even moderate exercise stimulates your body to produce nitric oxide, which is a short-lasting chemical that keeps your arteries open, including the ones that allow blood to flow into your penis.
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with higher levels of fat in the body. The more fat you have, the more estrogen your body is likely to produce, which means your testosterone levels dip. It can also lead to a higher risk of developing diabetes, which impacts insulin resistance and makes the development of erectile dysfunction more likely.
Treating Erectile Dysfunction
Struggling with erectile dysfunction can affect your self-esteem, moods, and relationships. If you are dealing with this issue, it’s essential to reach out to your doctor for help.
One option that offers the chance to get relief from erectile dysfunction is regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine treatments like stem cell therapy focus on doing more than just treating the symptoms of the condition: they can help to treat the underlying problem that led to erectile dysfunction issues in the first place.
If you are dealing with erectile dysfunction, consider asking your doctor about regenerative medicine. With these minimally invasive treatments, you could allow your body to start healing itself.