Prevent erectile dysfunction

If you’re looking for ways to prevent erectile dysfunction (ED), read on to find out what options exist for this problematic condition.

ED can occur at any age, but the risk increases by 15% in men over the age of 65 years. Impotence is preventable and also treatable when prevention measures fail.

Stop smoking

Researchers McVary, Carrier & Wessells (2001) examined the role of smoking in ED development. They found strong parallels and shared risks between ED and smoking, coronary artery disease, and atherosclerosis.

The indirect evidence showed smoking affects penile erection by impairing the endothelium-dependent smooth muscle relaxation. Smoking may increase the likelihood of ED as much as two-fold, they found.

Smoking has certain effects on the body, including causing an imbalance of prostacyclin concentrations, hypercoagulability, and increased platelet aggregation. Because of these adverse effects, the penile vascular endothelium and peripheral nerves were damages.

Smoking not only led to vascular disease, which put the subjects at risk for ED, but the risk increased for each 10 years of heavy smoking. Stopping smoking, therefore, is a good way to prevent erectile dysfunction.

Take medications after prostate surgery

Experiencing ED following prostate surgery is common.

ED experts Padma-Nathan and associates (2008) studied men four weeks after they had bilateral nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomies. Experts believe the cause of impotence following this procedure is related to multiple factors including age and preoperative erectile function.

Many men don’t regain full erectile function for more than 12 months following the operation (McCollough, 2001). ED experienced by men that undergo a radical nerve-sparing prostatectomy is initially sudden and total, making this a significant issue for the patients.

Padma-Nathan et al found there was significant improved nocturnal erectile activity in men with vasculogenic or psychogenic ED who used sildenafil (Viagra) nightly.

Separated into a control group and a research group, the subjects received this medication. The control group men got a placebo medication nightly for 36 weeks, while the research group received sildenafil (50 or 100 mg) for the same amount of time.

The researchers found erectile function occurred in only 4% of the placebo group versus 27% of the sildenafil group. They concluded that one way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to take take sildenafil nightly after surgery, as it markedly increases the return of spontaneous erections.

Lose weight and exercise regularly

Most of us know being overweight is bad for the heart, but it can also cause ED. Clinical studies suggest a sedentary lifestyle and obesity contribute to the risk of developing ED, ad being overweight or obese increases a person’s risk of vascular disease, a known cause of ED.

One way to prevent erectile dysfunction is to lose weight and exercise regularly. Experts recommend you maintain a healthy weight by avoiding excess fat intake, monitoring your calories and exercising at least 30 minutes a day five days a week (Derby et al., 2000).

Keep blood sugar and blood pressure in check

Lewis and colleagues (2004) found several risk factors contributed to ED, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, and psychiatric disorders.

Dr. Sullivan and associates reported in 2001 that men with diabetes were at great risk for ED, citing a prevalence of 35%. These experts also studied blood pressure and its relationship with ED, finding controlling blood pressure greatly reduced the risk of developing ED.

Other studies (Sullivan et al., 2001) found a direct correlation between ED and hypertension (high blood pressure). Due to vascular compromise, elevated blood pressure alters the erectile mechanism, leading to ED. Approximately 10% of men with poorly controlled hypertension also have ED.

If you suspect you have hypertension, see your doctor and get started on medications as soon as possible to prevent erectile dysfunction.

Avoid certain medications, alcohol, and street drugs

Derby and associates analyzed whether heavy alcohol consumption and smoking put people at risk for ED in a study of 1,709 men aged 40-70 years over a specified time period.

They were unable to confirm whether changing drinking habits were able to improve erectile functioning, but they did find chronic alcohol consumption could cause irreversible damage to penis nerves and erectile functioning. They also recommended men adopt a healthy lifestyle during their younger years to prevent erectile dysfunction (Sullivan, 2001).

Certain medications that treat various diseases and conditions are also associated with ED. To prevent this from occurring, discuss medications changes with your doctor, as abruptly stopping prescribed medications could be harmful to your health.

Drugs known to cause impotence include several high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antiseizure medications, antihistamines, antiarrythmics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents, Parkinson’s medications, and muscle relaxants. A number of recreational drugs, such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines are also linked to erectile dysfunction.


  • Derby, C.A. et al. (2000). Modifiable risk factors and erectile dysfunction: Can lifestyle changes modify risk? Adult Urology, 56(2), 302 – 306.
  • Lewis, R.W. et al. (2004). Epidemiology/risk factors of sexual dysfunction. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 1 (1): 35 – 39. DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2004.10106.x
  • McCullough, A.R. (2001). Prevention and management of erectile dysfunction following a radical prostatectomy. Urologic Clinics of North America, 23(3): DOI: 10.1016/S0094-0143%2805%2970166-X
  • McVary, K.T., Carrier, S., & Wessells, H. (2001). Smoking and erectile dysfunction: evidenc based analysis. The Journal of Urology, 166(5): 1624 – 1632. Doi:
  • Padma-Nathan, H. et al. (2008). Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of postoperative nightly sildenafil citrate for the prevention of erectile dysfunction after bilateral nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy. International Journal of Impotence Research, 20, 479 – 486. doi:10.1038/ijir.2008.33
  • Sullivan, M.E., Keoghane, S.R., Miller, M.A (2001). Vascular risk factors and erectile dysfunction. BJU International, 87 (9): 838 – 845. DOI: 10.1046/j.1464-410x.2001.02211.x
  • (2013). Preventing erectile dysfunction. Retrieved on February 19, 2013 from:
  • Drugs that may cause impotence, Retrieved on February 23, 2013 from:

Last reviewed 24/Feb/2017


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