Most people know that smoking can lead to serious health problems, including stroke, certain cancers, and cardiovascular disease. But you may not know that smoking has also been linked to erectile dysfunction. In fact, a population-based study showed that smoking can almost double a man’s risk of developing mild to severe erectile dysfunction.
Men who smoke at least one pack per day are nearly 40 percent more likely to experience erectile dysfunction when compared to men who do not smoke. Why does smoking have this affect on sexual function?
Dr. Jack Mydlo is a chairman at the Temple University School of Medicine. He explains that smoking causes blood vessels to narrow, which restricts circulation and blood flow to the penis. That can make it more difficult for a man to get an erection.
Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to regularly get or maintain a firm erection for sexual activity. The United States Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders states that approximately 2 percent of American men have severe erectile dysfunction. National studies have consistently shown that the risk of severe erectile dysfunction increases with age.
A study of over 2,000 Caucasian men between the ages of 40 and 79 found that current smokers in their 40s had the greatest risk of developing erectile dysfunction when compared to men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. The study showed that men who previously smoked had an increased risk of sexual dysfunction. In fact, the risk of erectile dysfunction almost doubled for current smokers in their 40s compared to nonsmokers in their 50s. The results of this study were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Researchers also studied approximately 8,000 Australian men aged 16 to 59. The results of this study, which first appeared in Tobacco Control, showed that men who smoke less than one pack per day had a 24 percent greater risk of developing erectile dysfunction. Heavy smokers who go through 20 or more cigarettes per day increased their risk of developing erectile dysfunction by nearly 40 percent.
Experts believe that smoking is a major cause of erectile dysfunction. However, other lifestyle choices can affect a man’s sexual health. Obesity, stress, fatigue, lack of exercise, drug abuse, and excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction may also be a symptom of serious medical conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. Certain prescription medications can lead to erectile dysfunction symptoms. Erection problems can also be caused by low testosterone, surgery, or injury. If you think you have erectile dysfunction, it’s important to make an appointment with your doctor for a complete medical evaluation.
Healthy lifestyle choices and erectile dysfunction medications can help support good sexual health. Doctors recommend a balanced diet and regular exercise. Quit smoking, avoid alcohol, lose weight, and monitor chronic health conditions. If you stay healthy and active, you may not even need to use erectile dysfunction medications to regain an active sex life.