So far as science is concerned, sex is good for you. Hundreds of studies over the years have thoroughly documented the health benefits of regular sexual activity.
That said, some new and recently published research suggests that men of a certain age might want to cool it a little. Jackie Koppell has the details in today's Seeker Daily report.
The Journal of Health and Social Behavior recently published a study about the effects of sex on older people, specifically between the ages of 57 and 85. There's good news and bad news.
The bad news, alas, applies to men. The research showed that older men who had sex at least once per week were at a higher risk to experience untoward cardiovascular events -- think heart attack or stroke -- than men who were sexually inactive. Among the other risk factors researchers uncovered: hypertension, rapid heart beat, and elevated levels of certain proteins that suggest inflammation in the body.
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With the women, however, it's a different story. None of the risk factors that applied to the men in the study showed up for the women. In fact, women had demonstrably lower risk of hypertension -- or high blood pressure -- when they were sexually active in their golden years. As stand-up comics have been telling us for decades, it appears that men and women are different.
Science has some theories on this. It's known that when men experience stressors -- and sex can be a stressor -- the body responds by increasing vascular resistance. That's the force that opposes increased blood flow, and it naturally leads to higher blood pressure.
However, the female body tends to respond to stressors with an increased heart rate, and therefore an higher amount of blood being pumped through the system. This may explain why some older women end up experiencing decreased hypertension if they remain sexually active.
It's important to keep in mind that this particular study focused on the cardiovascular system. That's just one of the body's many moving parts and systems, of course. Even if late-in-life sex produces risk factors in this specific area, there's plenty of evidence showing that sex can improve your mood, your quality of sleep, your stress levels, and lots of other things.
-- Glenn McDonald
American Physiology Society: Sex and the cardiovascular system: the intriguing tale of how women and men regulate cardiovascular function differently
Men's Health: 10 Ways More Sex Can Improve Your Health
Heart: Cardiac and vascular pathophysiology in hypertension