Is your penis aging?

By Madeleine Castellanos, M.D.

Grayer hair. Deeper crow's feet. Extra pounds around your middle. Like it or not, most of us expect these changes as we get older. But what's more surprising to many couples is the effect that aging can have on their sexuality.

Try as he might, an older man just doesn't have the same mojo as a younger guy. That's not to say that an 80-year-old man and an 18-year-old man don't both want to have sex, but, as you're probably all-too aware, there are some key changes that occur over time that can affect the penis and how it functions.

As I discuss in my new book on Penis Problems: A Man's Guide, your penis itself changes with age. In general, you can expect to notice certain shifts in your reproductive organs, starting as early as age 30.

Color. The head of your penis may become paler and less purple in tone as a result of reduced blood flow to the area, or the overall color may not look as even as before.

Size. Your penis may slightly decrease in size over time, losing an estimated half-inch in length and girth between your 30s and your 70s, according to some experts. Extra pounds around the abdomen may add the illusion of even greater shrinkage by hiding part of the penis under your belly, a problem that's easily remedied with weight loss. The diameter of your testicles also shrinks over the years.

Feeling. Your penis can become less sensitive as you get older, which may make it more difficult for you to achieve an erection or reach orgasm. This decreased sensitivity may be bothersome for some guys, while other men don't really seem to mind.

Everyone knows that women go through menopause. What most people don't know is that men can also experience a decline in sex hormones (in this case, testosterone). This so-called "manopause," also known as "andropause," is more subtle than the female version, but it can carry its own sexual side effects. Although some men are not bothered by low testosterone, many men with lower levels of testosterone find that their libido, too, has gone south. That's because testosterone is truly the hormone that stokes the flames of desire.

Andropause can also trigger mood swings, depression, and irritability, as well as raise your risk for osteoporosis and heart disease. Keep in mind, however, that andropause doesn't affect all men: It's an age-related medical condition that a doctor diagnoses when your testosterone falls below a certain level and if you experience symptoms.

Bad habits add up. A steady diet of cheeseburgers, soda and channel surfing may seem like no big deal when you're younger, but as we age, these poor choices begin to take their toll on our health. The result? Clogged arteries, obesity, and a higher risk of problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, all of which can impair blood flow to the genitals. In fact, studies suggest that ED may be an early warning sign for heart disease.

In my opinion, good men get better better with age. Make sure the same is true of your penis.

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