Just as men develop grey hair and creaky joints as they hit middle age, from the age of 40, their blood vessels start to age, affecting their virility. The blood vessels become furred with fatty deposits, impeding blood flow to the penis.
This lack of blood also means that some of the tissue around the vessels becomes deprived of oxygen – another trigger for erectile dysfunction.
Before the age of 40, less than 10 per cent of men have concerns about their erections – after that, more than 50 per cent complain of problems, and it is a worry for the vast majority of the over-70s.
Another problem is that from the 40s onwards, testosterone levels drop because the testicles aren’t able to produce as much of it.
Animal studies have shown that lower levels of testosterone affect penile tissue. There are testosterone receptors, which bind to the hormone to make it effective, inside the penis so they won’t be activated if there isn’t enough of the hormone, making it difficult for the penis to become rigid.
This phase has been dubbed the ‘andropause’ as the time it starts matches the time of the female menopause (although while the menopause affects a woman’s fertility, this is not as dramatic in men).
However, regular sexual activity can help to maintain erections – and may also even extend life expectancy.
Studies show that men over 50 have a longer life expectancy if they have at least two orgasms a month, compared with those who have none, while heart attack patients survive longer if they have frequent sexual activity.
Scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, but say that the rush of feel-good compounds may boost health by lowering blood pressure and boosting heart health.
As we will see, one of the key lessons about male virility is that an active sex life creates a virtuous cycle – it makes erectile dsyfunction less likely, protects a man’s prostate and even stops the penis shrinking with age. In other words: use it or lose it!
VIRILITY REVEALS HOW HEALTHY YOU ARE
Struggling to achieve and maintain an erection can indicate more than a localised problem – it can be a sign of other underlying health conditions.
Read more: dailymail.co.uk