Are problems with your erections or low libido putting a damper on your sex life? These issues are fairly common in men over age 50, says psychologist Dana Brendza, PsyD. But this doesn’t mean you can’t work against them.
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The first step: Talk to your doctor. It’s unlikely your medical practitioner will initiate this conversation so you need to bring up this topic.
Here are other tips to enjoy an active sex life long past the age of 50:
- Consider medication. Prescription pills — Viagra®, Levitra® or Cialis® — are the first-line treatment for erectile dysfunction, and they can be very effective. Your primary care doctor can prescribe them, and so can a urologist.
- Watch your waistline. High blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol can cause the vascular problems that lead to trouble with your erections. It’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising and keeping your weight down. Avoiding high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol as well as heart disease may lessen the frequency of erection problems — or at least delay their onset.
- Get your heart checked if needed. What if you already have an established condition, such as high blood pressure or diabetes? Pills can still be effective, but your doctor may want to check your heart. “It’s very important before dispensing these pills that practitioners make sure that heart function is good,” Dr. Brendza says. The reason: Problems with erections can indicate other problems, such as significant heart disease.
- Don’t assume it’s low testosterone. Many experts are concerned too many men are being treated for low testosterone. However, a drop-off in desire can be related to hormones. For erection issues, it can be helpful to get your testosterone checked. “It’s important that your doctor investigate and address the reasons why you have low testosterone, or low sexual desire,” Dr. Brendza says.
- Consider counseling. Sexual issues such as low libido and erectile dysfunction may have an emotional component, so psychological counseling may be an option. “It’s important consider the possibility that a psychological issue could be causing your sexual troubles. Anxiety, depression, life stress and relationship problems can contribute to men’s sexual difficulties. In these cases, counseling may be helpful,” Dr. Brendza says.
- Talk to your partner if your sex drives are mismatched. It’s common for couples to have mismatched sex drives. If that’s the case, couples need to speak frankly about what is important to them sexually and try to come to a compromise to meet both of their needs. “One partner may want to focus more on intimacy in a sexual relationship, while others may tend to focus more on the erectile aspects of sexual activity,” Dr. Brendza says. Intimacy and pleasure can be experienced in many ways other than intercourse, so you may want to experiment with manual, oral and mechanical forms of stimulation to meet each other’s needs. Make an effort to be open to trying something new. In other words, ask your partner what they want — and tell them what you want.
- Set aside time for sex. As men age, the stress and pressures of everyday life can create a barrier to sex. Dr. Brendza says it’s important that couples set aside time to nurture the relationship and foster ongoing intimacy, even if the methods change over time. When this happens, couples can enjoy a healthy intimate relationship well into their 70s and 80s.