The concept of sexual health might not have crossed your mind to be essential to maintain until you’ve reached middle age. But, just because you've matured, it doesn't mean that you should assume that sexual health is unimportant.
As we age, our libido changes as does a variety of physiological symptoms such as changes to our sexual organs like vaginal lubrication and the tone of our pelvic muscle. Changes in our relationships with our significant other can also make intimacy feel like work. Sexual health, however, is like any other muscle that requires exercise for health maintenance. In fact, changes in your sex life can begin as early as perimenopause years. According to The North American Menopause Society (NAMS)1, a new study showed that sexual dysfunction increases by 30% in perimenopausal women. There are emotional and psychological benefits in keeping your sex life alive through your midlife and beyond.
In an Oxford study2 on sexually active older adults, participating men and women between 50 and 83 years old showed an improvement in brain function. Such brain-boosting data showed that maturing adults in midlife that had a healthy sex life demonstrated higher verbal fluency scores. Researchers in the study concluded that there might be a link between dopamine levels that are increased during sexual activity and its positive influence on the brain.
If you’re experiencing headaches, leg cramps, backaches, or other types of bodily discomfort - sex may actually help. In fact, oxytocin, the “cuddle” hormone that is released during sex is said to reduce pain3 by increasing endorphins. According to some researchers, vaginal stimulation can help improve body aches and pain.
Difficulty sleeping through midlife is quite common, especially during menopause, when the average age tends to be around 50-51 years old. Improving one’s sex life can help improve sleep, too. Hormonal changes that bring on hot flashes and night sweats can equally keep you up at night. Avoiding excessive caffeine, alcohol, and napping in the afternoons might help, and so can increasing sexual activity. According to The North American Menopause Society4 , 46 to 48 percent of women between the ages of 40 to 64 report sleep problems. Research has concluded that women with declining sleep quality often experience a decline in libido. However, studies5 show that sex can help reduce cortisol, which is the stress hormone the body produces. When stress is reduced, the quality of sleep tends to increase.
While it’s not the same as getting on a treadmill, sex can be a form of cardiovascular fitness. Sex gets the blood flowing, not to mention you do burn calories. In fact, a study6 showed that sexual activity could even reduce the risk of heart attacks. Further research published in The American Journal of Medicine7 found that heart attack survivors who had sex at least once a week, demonstrated a higher percentage of life expectancy than those that didn’t have sex.
Physical intimacy has been shown to improve relationships. According to research8, physical health plays a vital role in the ability to sustain a healthy sex life. When couples are physically fit and ensure to make time for not just sex but cuddling, kissing, hand-holding, and physical touch, it can help promote marital satisfaction.
If you’d like to improve your sex life but you’re struggling with low libido, vaginal dryness, or pain during sex, see your healthcare provider. Here are some tips on what to talk about during your appointment.
1. There may be something your doctor can recommend to improve your libido.
2. There are also vaginal moisturizers or lubricants to improve vaginal dryness.
3. If you are experiencing painful sex or discomfort, talk to your doctor.
4. A physical therapist can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscle via physical therapy exercises.
When you think of health and wellness, you might reflect on a physical exam you recently passed. In considering what’s good for you, especially at midlife, don’t discount sex. Having an active sex life is essential in keeping you connected with your partner on a physical and emotional level. The research shows that sex is good for you. So, even though you might need to work at restoring your libido, taking an active role in cuddling or even a little foreplay is a small start towards improving your sexual health.
This blog post and the recommendations made herein are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be used as healthcare advice. Individuals are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider with questions about their specific needs.
The references provided in this blog post are identified for informational purposes only and such references and the underlying research, including the entities and individuals involved in the underlying research, did not involve Amberen and are not affiliated with Amberen or the makers of Amberen.