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Reducing Your Risk of Erectile Dysfunction (Impotence)

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The more you know about your health, the better prepared you are to make informed healthcare decisions. Our health library gives you the information you need to take charge of your health.

A risk factor increases your chance of getting a disease. Some risk factors can be avoided, such as smoking. Other risk factors you may have no control over, such as your genetic make-up. If you have a risk factor for erectile dysfunction that you can and do change, you may reduce your risk.

To reduce your risk of becoming impotent:

  • Manage your medical conditions.
  • Talk to your doctor about changing medications.
  • Maintain a healthful diet and exercise program.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Do not use recreational drugs.
  • Consider counseling.

Some cases of erectile dysfunction are due to chronic diseases of the lungs, liver, kidneys, heart, nerves, arteries, or veins. With your physician’s help, you can manage conditions that could affect your ability to have an erection, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

If you suspect that your medications may be the problem, ask your doctor about changing or adjusting them. Medications for the following conditions are most commonly associated with erectile dysfunction as a side effect:

Eat a healthful diet, one that is low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Begin and stick to a regular exercise plan. Choose exercises you enjoy and will make a regular part of your day. Strive to maintain an exercise program that keeps you fit and at a healthy weight. For many people, this includes walking or participating in an aerobic activity for 30 minutes per day. Exercise also can help you manage stress. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

For more information about beginning an exercise program, click here.

Excessive tobacco use can also damage penile arteries. Quitting smoking reduces your risk of erectile dysfunction.

For information about quitting smoking, click here.

Chronic use of alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs, like cocaine, speed, or heroin, often causes erectile dysfunction, along with decreased sexual drive.

Psychological factors, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, account for 10%-15% of erectile dysfunction cases. Counseling can help you manage or prevent these emotions and interpersonal conflict. You may also want to try couples counseling.

Before quitting any medications, and even alcohol or tobacco if you are addicted, consult with your doctor about the safest way to do it.

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home.html.

  • Guay AT, Spark RF, et al. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists medical guidelines for clinical practice for the evaluation and treatment of male sexual dysfunction: a couple’s problem. 2003 update. Endocr Pract. 2003;9:77-95.

  • Sivalingam S, Hashim H, et al. An overview of the diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction. Drugs. 2006;66:2339-2355.

  • Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org.

  • Webber R. Erectile dysfunction. Clinical Evidence. 2005;13:1120-1127.