8 Factors That Contribute to Erectile Dysfunction

If you have Erectile Dysfunction (ED), getting your sex life back on track is probably a big concern. The condition often has a lot to do with lifestyle, experts say.

"Erectile dysfunction is a subject that is near and dear to our hearts," says Carol Ash, a hospitalist at Meridian Health New Jersey in Red Bank, NJ. "It's important to know erectile dysfunction is affected by one's lifestyle because some of the same risk factors for ED are also risk factors for heart disease."

Here are some of the lifestyle habits that put you a risk for ED—and how you can change things up to rev up your love life again.

1. Poor sleep habits. If you're getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, you are at risk for ED, Ash says. "Poor sleep increases your insulin resistance, stress, and anxiety," she says. "And all of this can affect sexual function." Establish a sleep routine, she recommends, and you may be surprised with the positive results.

2. Obstructive sleep apnea. A condition that's been linked to insulin resistance and the release of inflammatory markers into the blood steam, obstructive sleep apnea should be treated by a health care provider, Ash says. Once it's resolved and good sleep habits have been restored, chances are your sexual function will improve as well.

3. Sedentary lifestyle. You may not think exercising can affect your sexual performance, but it can and it does, says Harry Fisch, MD, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia Medical Center in New York City. "Engaging in regular, vigorous exercise promotes a healthy circulatory system and this, in turn, promotes healthy erectile functioning," Fisch says.

4. Stress and anxiety. In men age 30 and younger, the number one cause for ED is stress and performance anxiety, Fisch says. If you're feeling overly anxious, consider some professional counseling or make a conscious effort to reduce stress in your life.

5. Watching pornography. "If it becomes excessive, this can turn into an enormous problem," Fisch says. "Some men use pornography in place of a real relationship."

6. Alcohol and tobacco use. "A little wine may get you into the mood, but too much is not good," Fisch says. It's probably smart to avoid having a few drinks if you want to have sex. As for tobacco: "Smoking damages blood vessels," Ash says. "It's known that smoking impairs vascular function."

7. Obesity. "If you're overweight, lose the excess weight," Fisch recommends. You'll feel better about yourself, and have more energy.

8. Poor diet. Avoid junk food, Ash says, and concentrate on getting plenty of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Not sure where to find them? Fish, flax seeds, and walnuts are all good sources.