You just got home from a romantic dinner with your partner. You have candles burning in the bedroom and soft music playing in the background. When it’s time to get intimate, though, you realize you’re not quite ready.
It’s stressful, but it’s also normal for your body and your libido to change as you get older.
“Not all changes are bad, or a sign that something’s wrong with you,” says Andrew Siegel, MD, a urologist in Bergen County, N.J. Almost half the guys out there have some sexual issues in their 40s and 50s.
“Men are just less likely to talk about it, so you may not be hearing from friends or family members that they’re dealing with it, too,” Siegel says.
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Signs of Change
Your erections are different. You may not get erect as fast as you used to. Or you may need more foreplay to get aroused. You might lose your erection sooner, too, sometimes before you climax. These issues are called erectile dysfunction.
ED becomes more common with age. Often, that’s because there’s less blood flow to your penis. Or your body might be making less of the hormone testosterone. Health conditions like diabetes, depression, heart disease, and high blood pressure also increase the odds of getting ED. Sometimes the medications you take to treat them also cause problems.
Your climaxes aren’t as powerful. “Many men over 40 notice that their orgasms are weaker. They might have less fluid when they ejaculate, too,” Siegel says. Changes in your body that come with age are probably to blame. Weak pelvic floor muscles, for example, can cause trouble with ejaculation.
You’re not in the mood as often. A lagging libido can frustrate both you and your partner. After years of wanting sex all the time, some men say the lack of interest feels like losing an important part of who they are.
Why does this happen? Lower levels of testosterone “can dampen desire,” says Michael Krychman, MD, an OB/GYN and doctor of sexual medicine.
But that’s not the only reason. “As you get older, life stressors like money, kids, and career pressure can make it more difficult to get and stay interested in sex,” Krychman says. So can medications, alcohol, depression, and major illnesses.
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Take These Steps
Find ways to relax. The more stressed you are, the less likely you are to think about sex -- and thinking about it can get you in the mood. Stress hormones close up your blood vessels. That can add to ED.
Get moving. Active men have fewer sexual problems. Exercise boosts blood flow throughout your body. That includes the penis. It also staves off depression, heart disease, stress, and other problems that can zap your sex life.
Do Kegels. You may think of Kegels as exercises for women, but men should do them, too. They strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which are “crucial" for sex, Siegel says.
To do one, tighten and hold the muscles that control your flow of urine for about 5 seconds. Then relax them. Do at least two to three sets of 10 a day.
Make good health a goal. You might have sleep problems and gain weight as you get older. Both can lead to lower testosterone levels, says Lee T. Gettler, Ph.D., an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. They can also affect your desire and ability to have sex. Eat healthy food and get enough shut-eye to help yourself in and out of the sack.
Go easy on alcohol. More than one to two drinks a day can fuel many health problems -- and it affects your hormone levels. If you smoke, quit. “Tobacco closes blood vessels, which can make erection problems much worse,” Siegel says.
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See a doctor. Not ready to chat about your love life with your primary care doc? Find one who specializes in urology or sexual health.
Your doctor should rule out other things that could be to blame for erection problems. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, or an enlarged prostate. They may do a blood test to check your testosterone levels.
They drop as you age, but if they go too far down -- a condition called “low T” -- they might suggest supplements. These come as skin patches, gels, and injections, among other forms.
Put your partner first. Find ways to be sexual with your partner even if you can’t have sex. Cuddling and skin-to-skin contact can boost your desire and help the two of you bond.
Go on dates and enjoy each other’s company.
“It’s easy to get so caught up in all the things you have to do every day. Before you know it, your relationship is at the bottom of your to-do list,” Krychman says.
Quality time with your partner can keep your relationship healthy. And that can make any sex issues you have feel less stressful.
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