4 Common Habits That Can Cause Erectile Dysfunction, According to Doctors


Everyone encounters awkward experiences in their sex life from time to time. While you may laugh off the occasional sexual faux pas, embarrassing sexual experiences can become stressful when they occur repeatedly. What's more, recurring sexual dysfunction may signal an underlying health condition and means it's time to visit your doctor.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common sexual disorder experienced by over half of U.S. males between the ages of 40 and 70. In fact, experts anticipate that the worldwide prevalence of ED will rise to 322 million men by 2025.

Fortunately, you can avoid awkward bedroom moments by eliminating unhealthy lifestyle habits that sabotage your sexual performance. Keep reading for four everyday habits that could be causing your ED—and what you can do about them.

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Whether your vice of choice is tobacco or marijuana, it's no secret that smoking does no favors for your health. Besides spiking your risk of several chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes, smoking can also impair your heart's ability to pump blood effectively. This impedes blood flow and constricts blood vessels in your genitals, often resulting in erection problems.

However, the good news is that smoking's effects on ED are reversible. Quitting smoking can stop ED in its tracks—and fast. According to a study published in Andrologia in 2015, men who were heavy smokers and abstained from smoking cigarettes for 24 to 36 hours experienced significant improvements in their ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Additionally, a 2019 meta-review published in the American Journal of Men's Health determined that ED prevalence was twice as high in chronic cannabis users than in men who didn't use marijuana.

READ THIS NEXT: If You Take This Common Medication, It Could Be Ruining Your Sex Life, Doctors Say.

Excessive alcohol consumption

While kicking back and enjoying a few drinks can be a fun and social experience, too much alcohol can lead to disappointment in the bedroom. Alcohol interferes with messengers in the brain that tell your genitals to fill with blood. Also, it can cause ED by reducing testosterone production. Fortunately, alcohol's influence on your inability to stay hard is temporary. Once alcohol's effects have worn off and the booze is out of your system, you should be good to go.

James Ulchaker, MD, a urologist with the Cleveland Clinic, said in a statement, "What you drink generally matters more than what you eat. Alcohol is one of the top things we ingest that impacts erections. In our society, we typically have a drink, go out to dinner, and then come home and have intercourse. I advise guys to do the opposite […] have some fun at 6 p.m., then have a drink and go out to dinner."

Sedentary lifestyle
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A lack of physical activity is one of the most modifiable risk factors for addressing your ED. Not exercising or moving regularly can lead to weight gain, obesity, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases—all significant contributors to ED. However, even moderate exercise on a regular basis can reverse ED and improve your ability to get an erection.

"Even moderate exercise, like a brisk walk, stimulates your body's ability to produce nitric oxide (NO)," Michael F. Roizen, MD, an internal medicine doctor with the Cleveland Clinic, told ShareCare. "NO is a short-lived chemical that your body needs to keep replenishing. It keeps your arteries open, including the ones that allow blood to flow into your penis when you get excited. Exercise may protect your sexual function, even if you have other risk factors that work in the opposite direction."

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Mouth breathing
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Breathing through your mouth too much can cause ED. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Oral Health and Dental Science, researchers found that 68 percent of participants who were mouth breathers encountered sexual issues, including ED, premature ejaculation, and reduced libido. Interestingly, the mouth-breathing participants who experienced ED ranged in age from their 20s to 50s, reinforcing the association between heavy mouth breathing and ED.

While you may not think you're a mouth breather, you could be one in your sleep—the time when your breathing most significantly impacts factors contributing to ED. "Certain types of breathing, such as mouth breathing, increase the risk of sleep disorders. When sleep is interrupted for long periods, this can lower testosterone levels and increase the risk of erectile dysfunction," explains Justin Houman, MD, medical director at Bastion Health.