How to Boost Libido for Optimal Men’s Health Later in Life

Learn how medications and underlying conditions can cause issues in the bedroom—and what to do about it.

a middle aged man and woman sit in an embrace on a dock overlooking a lake

Updated on June 29, 2022.

As men enter their middle age and senior years, many find that their libido is not what it used to be. Low levels of testosterone, a powerful driver of male libido, could be a factor contributing to poor sexual function. But that doesn’t necessarily mean their interest in sex has waned. In fact, a survey of people over 65 years of age found that 84 percent of men considered sex important at any age.

If you’re among that group, here are some tips to help sustain a vigorous and stimulating sex life at any age.

Consider your medications

There are a number of common medications that can affect sexual performance. According to a 2021 Harvard Health Special Report, the side effects of some common medications, like blood pressure drugs, account for about one-quarter of cases of erectile dysfunction (ED).

Medications known to be disruptive to one’s sex life include:

  • Antidepressants, including fluoxetine (Prozac) and buspirone (BuSpar)
  • Antianxiety drugs, like diazepam (Valium)
  • Antihistamines used for seasonal allergies, including diphenhydramine (Benadryl), and those used for motion sickness, such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
  • Antihistamines used for heartburn, like ranitidine (Zantac)
  • Hypertension medications, like metoprolol (Lopressor) and enalapril (Vasotec)
  • Parkinson’s medications
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Opiates

If you suspect medications might be the culprit behind your sexual issues, talk to your healthcare provider (HCP). They may be able to change medications or alter your dosage to help the issue.  

It could be underlying health issues

Some medical conditions that are more common with age can also cause sexual problems like ED or low libido. For instance, if you have diabetes, you are at least twice as likely to get ED over time as someone who doesn’t have it, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Other conditions that can be responsible for sexual dysfunction include heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, multiple sclerosis, and prostate surgery or treatment. Even some unexpected health issues—like sleep apnea—can impact libido. A 2019 report in the World Journal of Men’s Health noted a correlation between sleep apnea, which tends to create poor sleep quality and fewer hours of sleep, and low testosterone in male patients.

You can talk with your HCP about any medical conditions you have that may be contributing to ED, low libido, or other sexual issues. Many of these issues may be treatable. Just remember that some medications used for treatment can be problematic for sexual function as well. Have patience with your body and know a resolution is there. It may just take some time to find the right care plan for you.

Your overall wellness matters

There are some things you can do to get the upper hand on other sexual health roadblocks. Staying active, getting adequate quality sleep, and managing your weight are all ways to lower your risk for ED. Lack of physical activity, being overweight, using alcohol and/or drugs, and smoking are all factors that may contribute to ED.

A healthy diet coupled with 30 minutes daily of physical activity (in addition to that between-the-sheets time) keeps blood flowing, which helps reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction.

Exercise can also help increase testosterone levels, according to a 2020 study in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology. Studies have also shown that keeping a waist circumference of 40 inches or less and getting at least 2.5 hours of exercise a week can dramatically reduce the likelihood of having ED. Generally, exercise can also help reduce stress, improve sleep and hormone production, and increase flexibility and stamina, all of which can’t hurt during intimate moments.

Minimize alcohol when you can

Drinking too much alcohol can interfere with the ability to get and sustain an erection and achieve an orgasm. It may also reduce sexual desire. Alcohol's sedative effects increase with age, too, so two beers at a more advanced age may lead to nodding off rather than romancing your partner. And while it may make you feel happy and less inhibited, alcohol is actually a depressant. This means that if depression is contributing your sexual problems, imbibing may exacerbate that issue.

Heavy and long-term drinking can make sexual issues even worse. One small study showed that, of 100 men who had dealt with alcohol dependence issues, 72 percent reported having some sort of sexual dysfunction. A 2018 study by the same authors published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry found that 37 percent of men reporting alcohol dependence had sexual dysfunction.

If you feel you have a problem with alcohol use, you can talk to your HCP, seek out a therapist, or reach out to other organizations for help with quitting alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that men have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day.

Discuss your intimacy issues

Having an open dialogue will make you feel less stressed about intimacy troubles. You may need to confide in your HCP, too.

To make the most of a visit with your HCP, come to the appointment armed with information about your health history and about any challenges you’ve noticed that might be causing ED or other sexual issues. Think in advance about how you would like to talk about the topic and jot down any questions you would like answered so you have them handy.

Consider taking an erectile dysfunction drug

Since sildenafil (Viagra) blasted onto the market in the late 1990s, ED drugs have become increasingly common. They can even be purchased online through telehealth companies specifically designed to treat sexual dysfunction, like Hims or Roman.

Medications to treat erectile dysfunction can be generic or name brand. They are generally prescribed for short-term use (meaning, as needed), but they may be used long-term, assuming you experience no detrimental side effects. They may come with varying side effects and can interact with other medications you may be taking, so it’s important to consult with an HCP for a prescription as part of an overall consultation on your sexual well-being.

Article sources open article sources

University of Michigan. National Poll on Healthy Aging. Let’s Talk About Sex. May 2018.
Viigimaa M, Vlachopoulos C, Lazaridis A, Doumas M. Management of erectile dysfunction in hypertension: Tips and tricks. World J Cardiol. 2014 Sep 26;6(9):908-15.
Anita H. Clayton, Harry A. Croft & Lata Handiwala (2014) Antidepressants and Sexual Dysfunction: Mechanisms and Clinical Implications, Postgraduate Medicine, 126:2, 91-99.
Mondillo C, Varela ML, Abiuso AMB, Vázquez R. Potential negative effects of anti-histamines on male reproductive function. Reproduction. 2018;155(5):R221-R227.
Madan R, Dracham CB, Khosla D, Goyal S, Yadav AK. Erectile dysfunction and cancer: current perspective. Radiat Oncol J. 2020 Dec;38(4):217-225.
National Library of Medicine. Drugs that may cause erection problems. Review Date January 10, 2021.
Arackal BS, Benegal V. Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian J Psychiatry. 2007 Apr;49(2):109-12.
Prabhakaran DK, Nisha A, Varghese PJ. Prevalence and correlates of sexual dysfunction in male patients with alcohol dependence syndrome: A cross-sectional study. Indian J Psychiatry. 2018 Jan-Mar;60(1):71-77.
Grover S, Mattoo SK, Pendharkar S, Kandappan V. Sexual dysfunction in patients with alcohol and opioid dependence. Indian J Psychol Med. 2014 Oct;36(4):355-65.
Solan, Matthew. Some Drugs May Cause Your Erectile Dysfunction. Harvard Health Publishing. February 15, 2021.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. Page last reviewed July 2017.
Kim SD, Cho KS. Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Testosterone Deficiency. World Journal of Men’s Health. 2019;37(1):12-18.
Riachy R, McKinney K, Tuvdendorj DR. Various Factors May Modulate the Effect of Exercise on Testosterone Levels in Men. J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2020;5(4):81.
Janiszewski PM, Janssen I, Ross R. Abdominal obesity and physical inactivity are associated with erectile dysfunction independent of body mass index. J Sex Med. 2009;6(7):1990-1998.
Harvard Health Publishing. Tips for talking to your doctor about ED. December 20, 2020.
Speakman MT, Kloner RA. Viagra and Cardiovascular Disease. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 1999;4(4):259-267.

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