Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse at least 25 percent of the time, according to the Mayo Clinic. ED becomes more common as men age but is not actually a normal function of aging. ED has several causes, some physical and some psychological, and often, treating the underlying cause can cure the disorder.
Get a full physical. ED is often the sign of a more serious underlying problem. If you notice marked changes in your erections, see your doctor. It could be the first signs of heart disease, hypertension and even diabetes.
Lose weight and exercise. Obese men are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction. Even a moderate loss can improve sexual function. Exercise improves blood flow throughout the body and also lowers blood pressure, regulates blood sugar and helps you maintain a healthy weight--all factors that contribute to healthy sexual function.
Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption. Nicotine constricts blood vessels and smoking, in general, contributes to many illnesses that cause erectile dysfunction. Moderate amounts of alcohol can relax the blood vessels and increase blood flow, but too much will adversely affect sexual function.
Check your medications. Some blood pressure medications and diuretics are known to cause erectile dysfunction, and other medications could have similar side effects. If you are on medication, talk with your doctor about changing formulas or adjusting dosages. Do not attempt to make these adjustments on your own.
Eat garlic. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz in The Truth About Food, garlic causes the body to release nitric oxide into the blood--just like Viagra. Daily doses of garlic may also lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol, both contributing factors in ED.
Talk to someone. Depression and stress can affect sexual function. Additionally, if you are experiencing problems with sexual function, anxiety about having an erection can often make ED worse. If you have taken care of the physical causes and are still having problems, you may need to talk with someone to help you overcome any mental blocks.
Try ED drugs. ED drugs are designed to increase the level of nitric oxide in the blood, which causes the vessels in the penis to relax--allowing for more blood flow. The drugs themselves do not cause erections but allow the body to respond to sexual arousal. These drugs may not be safe for men with heart disease or high blood pressure, so consult with your physician first.
Explore supplementation. The Mayo Clinic lists several herbs and dietary supplements that may help with ED. Some of these herbs, like yohimbe, are already prescribed by doctors for ED. Others, like DHEA, are promising but need further research. Use care and consult with your doctor before taking any supplements as they can have side effects and interact with existing medications you are already taking.
Consider mechanical options. Penis pumps and penile implants allow you to have an erection without the use of drugs. Penile implants require surgery whereas penis pumps do not. A penis implant may be semi-rigid or have an inflation device implanted in the scrotum or abdomen. Penis pumps work externally via vacuum suction.