Is there a simple trick to cure erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Raagini Yedidi, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Raagini Yedidi, MD, 

Written by Amelia Willson 

Raagini Yedidi, MD - Contributor Avatar

Reviewed by Raagini Yedidi, MD, 

Written by Amelia Willson 

last updated: Mar 13, 2024

7 min read

If you experience erectile dysfunction (ED), you’re not alone. In fact, ED affects 30–50 million people in the United States. Erectile dysfunction is a common experience, so you may be wondering, is there a simple trick to cure ED? Unfortunately, there isn't. While gas station pills and supplements claim to enhance your sexual prowess, there’s no substitute for safe, effective, evidence-based ED treatment. 

That brings us to the good news. For most people, ED is treatable. Continue reading to learn about what causes ED, lifestyle changes to improve your sexual function, and ED medication.

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What is erectile dysfunction? 

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as having difficulty getting or maintaining erections that are long-lasting and strong enough for satisfying sex. Erectile dysfunction is characterized by an ongoing problem–sometimes, you’re just not in the mood or you lose an erection at an inopportune time. This is not ED. 

Erections are a complicated process, and it takes a lot to make them happen. Following arousal, your hormones, nerves, blood vessels, and brain work together to increase blood flow to your penis and decrease blood flow out of it, achieving an erection. When something interferes with a part of this process, ED may develop.

ED is defined as a sexual health issue, but the impact of ED can extend beyond your sex life. ED is linked to low self-esteem, can affect your relationship with sexual partner(s), lead to shame, anxiety, and depression, and even affect your productivity at work. If this list isn’t enough to motivate you to make an appointment with your healthcare provider, ED can also be a sign of a potentially serious underlying health condition (more on that below).

Causes of erectile dysfunction 

There are many potential causes of ED, from an underlying health condition to your mental health or lifestyle.

Physical causes of ED

Several health conditions have been linked to ED. People with obesity are 50% more likely to have ED. Undiagnosed diabetes is up to three times as likely in people with ED — and the longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of ED. 

Heart health is also linked to sexual health. Roughly half of people with proven coronary artery disease also have ED. Because issues with blood vessels can result in ED, having ED may mean you’re at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke or heart attack. People with ED should also check their blood pressure to make sure that isn’t an issue.

Additional conditions associated with ED include:

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Parkinson disease

  • Thyroid disorders

  • Traumatic injury or fractures

  • Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)

  • Sleep apnea

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

The risk of erectile dysfunction increases with age–ED affects up to 50% of biological men in their 50s. By the time they enter their 60s, the percentage increases to 74%. That said, ED can affect people of any age. In fact, one study showed that one in four men seeking treatment for ED are under the age of 40.

Lifestyle causes of ED

Your lifestyle can contribute to and exacerbate ED. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and recreational drug use can all significantly increase your risk of ED. A sedentary lifestyle with little physical activity is associated with ED, as is following an unhealthy diet. Both of these factors can contribute to obesity, which is itself a risk factor for ED.

Poor sleep can also increase your risk of ED, especially if you have a diagnosed sleep condition like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). ED is highly prevalent among people with OSA, and research estimates that up to 80% of cases remain undiagnosed.

Psychological causes of ED

Mental health can be as much of a contributing factor to ED as physical illness and lifestyle. Performance anxiety and relationship issues can also contribute to ED, as can depression, anxiety, and stress. Those with depression may be 40% more likely to have ED. Conversely, people with ED are three times more likely to have depression. In some people, there may be a cycle that can be difficult to break free from. 

As many as 37% of people with ED may have an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Erectile dysfunction can also be a side effect of many medications people take to manage anxiety and depression, like antidepressants. 

Medication that can cause ED

A lot of commonly used medications can contribute to ED. Some of these medications include:

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned your medication is interfering with your erections. Do not change your dosage or stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider. They may change your dosage or switch you to a different medication that is less likely to cause ED. 

Is there a simple trick to cure ED? 

Like the Fountain of Youth, the quick-fix trick to cure ED eludes us. And with such an extensive list of potential causes, it’s no wonder there’s no one-size-fits-all cure. Many causes of ED are complex, and therefore may require prescription treatment. Fortunately, there are several proven treatment options for ED.

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5 natural ways to treat erectile dysfunction 

Depending on your diagnosis, your healthcare provider may recommend some simple lifestyle changes to decrease your ED, on their own or in conjunction with drugs like Viagra (sildenafil) or Cialis (tadalafil). The following steps may improve not only your erections but your overall quality of life and health as well.

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1. Eat a healthy diet

Eating better can relieve ED. If you are overweight or obese, following a healthy diet (and limiting your calories) can help you lose weight, which in itself is linked to improved sex life. The following foods may help support your heart health and sexual function:

  • Foods high in lycopene: Tomatoes, watermelon, grapes, peaches, and cranberries

  • Foods high in folic acid: Leafy greens, eggs, beans, grains, nuts, and poultry

  • Foods high in capsaicin: Cayenne, jalapenos, and other spicy peppers

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: Seafood, and in particular, oysters

  • Caffeine (in moderate amounts, as high amounts can be dangerous)

  • Dark chocolate

In a study of men with obesity or overweight, weight loss of 5%–10% of their body weight improved erectile function. Just as certain foods may improve your sexual function, certain foods may hinder it. Avoid fried foods and foods with lots of added sugar, as they can impact your cardiovascular health and therefore have a negative impact on erections.

2. Exercise often 

Regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of ED. Exercise improves overall health, including penile health and testosterone levels. It also improves erections by boosting nitric oxide production, the helpful molecule that relaxes the muscles in your penis, enabling blood flow during an erection. While both aerobic exercise and strength training can help with ED, aerobic exercise of moderate-to-vigorous intensity, like running or cycling, has proven to be the most effective.

How much exercise should you aim for? Some experts recommend 40 minutes of intense aerobic exercise, four times per week, though you should talk to a healthcare provider before making a drastic change to your routine. Studies show that within six months, exercising this amount decreased erection issues in people who had ED due to a sedentary lifestyle or a health condition like obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, or heart disease.

3. Manage your stress 

Stress can impact multiple aspects of your life, including your sex life. ED itself can lead to chronic stress, which in turn worsens the symptoms of ED. Studies have found that stress management programs, when combined with tadalafil, an oral ED medication and the active ingredient in Cialis, can help relieve both stress and ED

If poor mental health contributes to your ED, take heart in knowing that therapy and counseling can help alleviate the symptoms of ED. Consider exploring these stress management techniques:

  • Deep breathing exercises

  • Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Mindfulness meditation

  • Guided imagery or visualization

  • Exercise (yes, it helps with stress, too)

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

4. Get enough sleep 

Our society often overvalues work and productivity, but good sleep (and enough of it) is essential for your health. In fact, some researchers consider sleep the “third pillar of health,” along with diet and exercise. Poor sleep is linked to ED, as well as other health issues..

Improve your sleep by improving your sleep hygiene. Try the following techniques:

  • Get 7–8 hours of sleep each night

  • Avoid daytime naps

  • Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evening

  • Exercise regularly 

  • Get some sunlight during the day

  • Put away the electronics before bed

5. Avoid excessive drinking and smoking 

Excessive alcohol use and smoking are both associated with an increased risk of ED. Alcohol can have negative short-term and long-term effects on erectile function. Smoking exposure is harmful whether you smoke yourself or are exposed to secondhand smoke.

Quitting smoking can improve your cardiovascular health and erections. Within one year, men who quit smoking reported significant improvements in their erections, with even better results at a later follow-up. 

Medication treatment for erectile dysfunction medication

ED treatment is readily available, thanks to phosphodiesterase-type 5-(PDE5) inhibitors like Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), and Levitra (vardenafil). These medications are typically the first-line treatment for ED, as they are highly effective and start working within one hour of taking them. Other medications, such as Ro Sparks, can work in as little as 15 minutes. Simply put, they work by increasing blood flow to the penis, resulting in stronger, longer-lasting erections. However, ED medications aren’t magic pills–in order to work, you have to be sexually aroused. 

If you’ve experienced the following, it may be time to ask about erectile dysfunction treatment:

  • You’ve had difficulty getting or maintaining a strong enough erection for satisfying sex

  • You’ve noticed your symptoms are getting worse

  • Erection difficulties are affecting your overall quality of life

During your appointment, your healthcare provider will ask questions about your erections and your sex life. They may perform a physical exam, order a blood test, or suggest a referral to a specialist or a mental health provider. With Ro, you can connect with a licensed medical provider online. Medications start at $4 per dose and come with free, discreet shipping.

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Can you prevent erectile dysfunction? 

The above tips for naturally treating ED are also ways to prevent it. For example, regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of ED and has also been shown to prevent it. A lack of physical activity is one of the most reversible risk factors for ED, and one that is totally in your control (unless you have a medical condition that limits your ability to exercise). 

Likewise, research suggests that following a plant-based diet, similar to the Mediterranean diet, can help men maintain healthy erectile function and lower the risk of ED well into their 60s.

While ED is more common with age, it is not inevitable. Implementing healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise, good sleep, and a healthy diet, can help improve your erections now and in the future. So start making these changes today, and make an appointment with your health provider to cover your bases. You deserve to feel great about your sex life.


If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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How we reviewed this article

Every article on Health Guide goes through rigorous fact-checking by our team of medical reviewers. Our reviewers are trained medical professionals who ensure each article contains the most up-to-date information, and that medical details have been correctly interpreted by the writer.

Current version

March 13, 2024

Written by

Amelia Willson

Fact checked by

Raagini Yedidi, MD

About the medical reviewer

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