How Aging Affects Sexual Performance

Sexual Peak Age for Men
Climbing mountains is one way to stay sexually healthy (Courtesy: Hunter Bryant

When do we hit our peak? Well, that depends on how you define peak. Peak muscular strength in men occurs around age 26. In terms of smarts, Nobel Prize winners make their big discoveries at an average age of 40. But do erections also have a peak?

Climb Every Mountain

The hard data comes from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. It suggests that men peak quite early in adulthood. The study found that the percentage of men having any form of erectile dysfunction, ranging from mild to severe, is your age minus 10. So, 30% of 40-year-old U.S. men note some form of ED. When it comes to more serious ED (moderate to severe), it also occurs at all ages but the figure half of age. So, 20% of 40-year-olds and 40% of 80-year-olds. Unfortunately, it appears that the penis ages just like we do.

There is no precisely defined point at which erections change with age, but typically men notice a difference between ages of 40 and 50. In some men, the change is immediate and in others it’s gradual. It may take the form of fewer instances of “morning wood,” or taking more time to obtain a full erection when desired. Erections that previously occurred with fantasy alone may now require physical touch to achieve. And minor distractions such as voices, a siren or a telephone ringing can lead to a limp member when it never did before. With sex, more time and more stimulation may be needed to complete the act.  Life just isn’t as simple in your 40s as it was in your 20s. And the penis is the first organ to let you know.

Ford Every Stream

As a doctor, when do I worry about a patient’s erections? At any age, it’s when it’s not possible to get a full erection either with a partner or by your lonesome. If you simply can’t get it up, then you have my complete attention. That’s because the science is clear that severe ED is correlated with heart disease and is linked to a higher risk of both heart attacks and strokes. The added risk is the same as being a smoker or having a family history of heart disease.

When patients with severe ED walk through my door, they get a full-on metabolic and hormonal evaluation. My goal is twofold: to help the erection and extend their lives.

If you see me for an ED evaluation, I will perform a complete physical exam and take a comprehensive medical history, noting any conditions or drugs that could affect your ability to get or maintain an erection. This places the ED within a medical context. We will review results of any previous lab testing and possibly order more hormone and metabolic tests.

What Are the Solutions?

Once I have completed your evaluation of underlying causes, we can discuss ED treatments. The most appropriate treatment depends on the severity of the ED, your age, medical history, other medications you take and potential side effects.

The first line treatment of ED is usually prescription oral medications. Most men get great results with Viagra, Cialis or Levitra; these drugs enhance the effects of nitric oxide, which is a chemical that naturally relaxes the muscles in the blood vessels of the penis during sexual stimulation and allows for increased blood flow and penile engorgement. They make sex pleasurable again and can help you feel young and vibrant.

Additionally, I will explore other changes, including lifestyle changes, that you can make to improve your erections. You may need to discontinue the use of a medication that interferes with your sexual function, or switch to a different drug. Or, the solution may be to manage an underlying health condition, such as heart disease, blood sugar or cholesterol problems. And young or old, what’s critical to normal erections is a healthy lifestyle. The penis, like any other organ, depends on blood flow. It’s just a little more sensitive than most other organs if blood flow is impaired. To maintain good erections in middle age, avoid smoking, being overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle. And eat as healthy as you possibly can. The good news is that by staying healthy and fit, you can extend your peak sexual performance.