Sex healthy for aging women

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By Addie Pobre

NEW RESEARCH findings found that regular orgasmic sex could protect aging women from certain health problems but satisying sex unfortunately poses cardiovascular risks for older men.

"These findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone," said Hui Liu, an associate professor of sociology at Michigan State University and lead author of the large-scale study.

The researchers analyzed national survey data from 2,204 people aged 47-85 for the federally funded project, publishing the results in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior on September 6.

Female participants who "found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying" were less likely to develop hypertension than those who found less gratification in sex, researchers said.

"This may be more relevant to women than to men," Liu said, "because men in all relationships, regardless of quality, are more likely to receive support from their partner than are women. However, only women in good quality relationships may acquire such benefits from their partner."

The female sex hormone released during orgasm could also benefit women's health, Liu said.

Meanwhile, men who had sex once or more a week were at a higher risk of cardiovascular problems.

"Strikingly, we find that having sex once a week or more puts older men at a risk for experiencing cardiovascular events that is almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive," said Liu. 

"Moreover, older men who found sex with their partner extremely pleasurable or satisfying had higher risk of cardiovascular events than men who did not feel so."

As aging men become "frail and suffer more sexual problems," the strain and pressure of sex and relationships might be responsible for the heightened heart health risks.

"Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax," she said.

Testosterone levels and the use of medications to improve libido might negatively affect male cardiovascular health.

The study authors measured cardiovascular risk as hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein and cardiovascular events including heart attack, heart failure and stroke.