Q&A: Aging And Erectile Problems

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QUESTION: I am in my late 30s and physically fit. I go the gym 3-4 times a week and masturbate 4-6 times a week. During intercourse, I have trouble maintaining a full erection for more than a few minutes and my penis is mostly half erect. I wasn't always like that, but started a few years ago. Do you think it is just my age or could it be something else?

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A man's shadow on a field of grass, with an erect penis

Photo: koettbullekvist (flickr)

Erection problems can be caused by heart problems, diabetes, or may be a result of side effects from medications.

Thanks for your question. It may be that your refractory period – which is the time between one ejaculation and your ability to have another one – is beginning to lengthen. This is common with age.

Sometimes, men find that as they age, they cannot get as many firm erections that end in ejaculation in a day or in a week as they used to.

You may find that masturbating less often helps you to maintain your erection when you do have intercourse. Some men, if they think they may have intercourse on a certain day, will purposely abstain from masturbating for a full day or two before they expect or hope to have intercourse. Doing so may help your intercourse erections to feel more firm, reliable and longer lasting.

Causes of Erectile Problems

That said, as fit as you may be, if you have not been to see your healthcare provider in a long time or if you find that reducing your masturbation frequency does not help, then you may find it useful to meet with a healthcare provider just to make sure that all is well. Erection problems can be caused by heart problems, diabetes, or may be a result of side effects from medications.

Further Reading

You may also find it helpful to read The New Male Sexuality – a well-respected book by a sex therapist named Dr. Zilbergeld that is about men’s sexual issues. Sometimes intercourse-related problems are influenced by performance anxiety or concerns about pleasing one’s lover and the book has quite a lot of information, tips and techniques related to erections that may be useful.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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