Erectile dysfunction: it may not be the most dinner-party friendly subject, but maybe it should be. ED is much more common than most realize. Recent studies have found that as many as 52% of men have experienced ED in some form and one in four are under the age of 40. But why? The causes are varied and sometimes surprising. If you think you may be affected by ED, read on.

Common Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

High Blood Pressure/Cholesterol

Erectile dysfunction can be the result of a circulation problem that inhibits blood flow to the penis. There are a number of preexisting health conditions that could be to blame, including heart disease, clogged arteries from high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Diabetes

It is estimated that up to 75% of men with diabetes will experience bouts of ED. Poor blood sugar control over a long period of time can cause damage to nerves and blood vessels, both of which affect a man’s ability to achieve and maintain an erection.

Tobacco

We all know that smoking is unhealthy, but did you know it could be the cause of your ED? The nicotine in tobacco products constricts your blood vessels, leading not only to heart disease, but poor genital circulation. Men who use tobacco can expect a 51% greater likelihood that they will develop ED.

Certain Medications

Be sure to inform your doctor of the medications you are taking, both over-the-counter and prescribed. If you are on antidepressants, blood pressure medicine, or pain medication, the side effects may include erectile dysfunction and a decreased libido. Other common culprits include antihistamines for allergies and cold remedies that contain pseudoephedrine. Short-term use of pseudoephedrine can have a temporary effect on sexual performance, but long-term use can be especially problematic. Hormonal therapies for hair loss and treatment for an enlarged prostate could also be to blame.

Stress

Our high-octane lifestyles and busy schedules can sometimes have unintended side effects. When stress is tied to a complicated work situation or unavoidable circumstance, it can spiral into anxiety, further compounding difficulties with ED. This is actually the most frequent cause of ED for both young and middle-aged men. Relationship problems and communication issues can sometimes play a role in ED as well.

Gum Disease

Oral hygiene is a bigger part of your sex life than a courtesy mouthwash. Gum disease can cause bacteria from the mouth to enter the blood stream, subsequently impeding blood flow and inhibiting circulation to the penis. Gum disease is actually a strong indicator of existing or impending erectile dysfunction. Men diagnosed with ED are 300% more likely to suffer from periodontitis than those who do not have ED. In cases of severe erectile dysfunction, more than 75% of patients have been found to have periodontal disease.

Lack of Exercise

The right kind of exercise may be missing for men who have ED. A study in the Journal of Critical Hypertension showed that an interval training program significantly improved the erections of their test subjects over an 8-week period. High-intensity cardiovascular exercise is great for reducing inflammation and improving blood flow and is more effective than low-intensity movement in improving overall sexual health and stamina. The boost of endorphins can also help with depression and anxiety.