Erectile dysfunction is a problem many men face as they get older. To determine how lifestyle choices correlate with sexual functioning, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston mailed a questionnaire to a cross section of 31,742 men aged 53 to 90 years. The men were asked about their sexual function, physical activity, body weight, smoking status, marital status, medical conditions and medication use.

Approximately one-third of the men reported having had an incidence of erectile dysfunction in the previous 3 months. The problem was most common in men who were obese and least likely in those who exercised regularly. The incidence of erectile dysfunction was also higher in men who smoked, consumed alcohol and spent considerable time watching television.

Writing in the August 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers concluded that the best ways to maintain good erectile function are to engage in physical activity and stay lean.