10 Health Factors That Affect a Man's Sex Life

  • Portrait of young couple
    Protect Your Sexual Health
    Many things can impact a man's sex life. Stress and certain chronic conditions can interfere with your ability to have sex. Unhealthy lifestyle habits can lead to problems getting or keeping an erection. However, by making some healthy lifestyle changes and treating underlying conditions, you can improve your sex life and your quality of life in general.

  • Breathing smoke out
    1. Smoking
    Smoking makes many health problems more likely, including heart disease. But men who smoke are also more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (ED). The toxins in cigarette smoke can also damage sperm. This can make it difficult or impossible to father a child. Quitting smoking can dramatically reduce the risk of these sexual and reproductive health issues. If you smoke and you’re having trouble quitting on your own, ask your regular doctor or your public health department for help. Talking with ex-smokers may also give you more confidence.

  • Young couple going for run with running club together
    2. Exercise
    Being sedentary can lead to weight gain, and men who are overweight are more apt to have ED. On the flip side, exercise could improve your sex life. Men who are physically active on a regular basis may have better overall sexual function. That's because exercise boosts your ability to have erections and orgasms. You may see improvement if you get at least two hours of rigorous activity each week. Men who get about six hours of light activity weekly could also experience these health benefits.

  • Heart Health Concept
    3. Heart Problems
    Health problems that affect your heart and circulatory system could affect your sex life too. When you engage in sexual activity, your brain sends signals to nerves in your penis to increase blood flow. That creates an erection. But if you have issues like clogged arteries, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol levels, there could be a break in these signals. This can lead to ED.

  • Man suffering from Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis standing near steps
    4. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
    MS can damage nerves running along the spine. If this occurs, it can affect both your ability to be aroused and your ability to reach orgasm. MS can also cause fatigue, mood swings, and low self-esteem. All of these symptoms can take a toll on your sex life. Men with MS who have sexual problems should talk with their doctor. Addressing these issues can improve your sex life and your enjoyment of life.

  • Elderly doctor looking at x-rays
    5. Spinal Cord Injury
    Some spinal cord injuries can affect your ability to have sex. The injury can disrupt sexual signals from the brain. Many men with a spine injury can still get an erection, but many of these men cannot ejaculate. Those who can still achieve an orgasm may experience it differently than before their injury. The effect that a spinal cord injury has on your sex life depends on where on the spine the injury occurred. How severe the injury is makes a difference too. Many treatments and devices are available to improve erection as well as induce ejaculation.

  • Man Performing Blood Test on Himself
    6. Diabetes
    Over time, diabetes can damage key nerves and blood vessels, especially if you have trouble controlling your blood sugar level. The damage can interfere with the blood supply to the penis. As a result, men with diabetes are much more likely than other men to have ED. They're also more likely to develop ED at a younger age than men who don't have diabetes. Good, consistent control of blood sugar levels is key to avoiding this and other diabetes complications.

  • Man drinking pint of beer
    7. Alcohol
    Heavy drinking can hurt your sex life. It affects the production of male hormones. This can lead to ED. Heavy drinking can also lead to infertility. It can cause you to lose facial and chest hair too. An unhealthy drinking habit can encourage risky sexual behavior. For instance, men who drink heavily are more likely to have unprotected sex or sex with more than one partner. Abusing illegal drugs, like cocaine, can also increase your risk of ED.

  • Deep thinker
    8. Depression
    Depression has a negative effect on a man's sex drive. Men who are depressed may feel sad, hopeless and irritable. They tend to lose interest in sex. This loss of libido can make it harder for the brain to create an erection. Other emotional issues are also common causes of ED. These include stress, anxiety and guilt. Even if depression or other feelings aren’t affecting your sex life, it’s good to let your doctor know if you have persistent feelings of sadness, irritability, guilt or anxiety. Seeing a counselor is another option. Many counselors specialize in men’s health and wellness.

  • Mixed race man examining prescription bottles
    9. Medications
    Certain medications may trigger a drop in testosterone levels. A low level of this key male hormone can cause you to lose interest in sex. ED is also a side effect of some prescription medicines. These include some drugs to treat high blood pressure, depression, heartburn, and ulcers. If you experience sexual side effects from medication, let your doctor know. You may be able to switch to a different drug.

  • Patient reading magazine, undergoing medical treatment in outpatient clinic
    10. Cancer
    Both cancer and cancer treatments can lead to ED. Some men with cancer have problems ejaculating and reaching orgasm. Cancer treatment can affect your desire for sex. Some sexual side effects continue even after treatment ends. Treatment for prostate cancer, in particular, may affect the quality of men's sexual intimacy. It can also affect their sexual fantasies and how masculine they feel.

  • Caucasian soldier and doctor talking in office
    Exploring Your Options
    For many of these health factors, making changes in your lifestyle or managing an underlying condition can go a long way toward improving your desire for sex and your ability to achieve and maintain an erection. To start, have an open and honest discussion with your doctor. If this is awkward for you, keep in mind that sexual health problems are fairly common for both men and women. Your doctor has talked with countless patients about sex. Work with your doctor to find the root of the problem and the most effective treatment options, whether lifestyle changes, medicine or devices.

10 Health Factors That Affect a Man's Sex Life

About The Author

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  11. 18 Ways Smoking Affects Your Health. Department of Health and Human Services. http://smokefree.gov/health-effects
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  13. Understanding How Testosterone Affects Men. National Institutes of Health. http://www.nih.gov/researchmatters/september2013/09232013testosterone.htm
  14. Sexual Problems. National MS Society. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Sexual-Dysfunction
  15. Spinal cord injury and male sexual function. Upstate Medical University, SUNY. http://www.upstate.edu/pated/document/sci_module_7_b_spinal_cord_injury_male_sexuality_dec_2013.pdf
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Jun 26
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.