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Is sex for seniors good for health? It depends on your gender

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January 6th, 2017
senior couple

National Institutes of Health-sponsored study has challenged commonly held assumptions that sex is good for everybody’s health.

Researchers collected baseline data from 2,204 study participants in the 2005-2006 National Social Life, Health and Aging Project, and then followed up five years later. They found that men who had sex at least weekly had twice the risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event five years later compared to sexually inactive men. Cardiovascular events were defined as elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, or elevated C-reactive protein levels. Even more bad news: men who rated sex very satisfying or pleasurable were at even higher risk.

Different story for women

Women, on the other hand, did not have the same risk. In fact, the researchers found that women—especially women who found sex very satisfying or pleasurable—had lower blood pressure.

The researchers aren’t sure why men’s heart health suffers, but they speculate it could be related to testosterone levels or the physical demands of sex that come with aging. For women, their lower heart disease risk may be related to stress reduction and psychological well-being that accompanies their strong social bond with their partner.

The study authors say that doctors should have discussions with their male patients about their sexual activity and carefully screen those who report high levels of sexual activity. 

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