Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, July 03, 2017

Sex? Why Not!

Working with your partner

Dr. Marjorie Green, clinical instructor in obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School, works with postmenopausal women who have difficulty becoming aroused or experience discomfort during sex. She says communication with one's partner is the foundation of a healthy sexual relationship, and advises the following:
  • Be honest. Don't try to fake it if your libido has dropped. Let your partner know when sex is painful.
  • Compromise. If one of you wants to have sex more frequently than the other, you should try to find a middle ground.
  • Experiment: If intercourse is painful, the two of you might try new positions and techniques that may be more comfortable. It may help to remember that vaginal intercourse isn't the only option. Genital stimulation and oral sex may provide as much satisfaction as you need.
Dr. Green acknowledges that even the most compatible couples have to make adjustments as their relationship matures. "Being in a new relationship can bring a surge of libido, but after a while the shine begins to wear off and you may need to work at it," she says. To restore the luster, she suggests couples try doing things they used to enjoy together at the beginning of their relationship. Recreating the atmosphere that set the stage for romance years ago can have the same effect today.
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sex in midlife and beyond
Image: © Ridofranz /Thinkstock

If you Google 'health, mid-life sex', what comes up is a whole lot of advice, and most of it is geared toward women; women with reduced libido, women going through menopause, women requiring a psychological boost to gear them toward working at valuing sex as they once did when they were young. Having sex with a trusted, loving partner because it's good for them and it's good for their partner. The 'partner', generally a male, presumably has no issues curtailing his desire and functionality.

As in: men are always ready for sex, it's always uppermost in mind and a nagging desire that is never fully sated. Women, on the other hand, once they've passed the urgency of their child-bearing years when nature equipped them to heights of desire, can take it or leave it; mostly the latter. But then, research has shown that in leaving it they're depriving themselves of huge health benefits. Of various types, all of which no one would really want to pass over.

Scientists, for example, from Oxford and Coventry universities came up with some interesting food for thought recently when they published the results of their research in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, that appears to suggest regular sexual activity in the age-50-and-beyond group produces benefits, from enhanced verbal fluency and visual memory; their brains responding to the stimuli associated with sex.

At Rutgers University, MRI scanners show that the brain is flooded with blood, oxygen and nutrients when orgasm occurs, and these are the active nutrients that neurological function is associated with. It is akin to physical exercise, the results of which are that exercising the body stimulates it to improved health. Men too, benefit hugely, since remaining sexually active appears to be a formula that results in prostate cancer being less likely to occur.

Cardiovascular benefits for women, and for men too, and cancer avoidance as well -- what's not to like and enjoy in that formulation? Evidence exists that people maintaining active sexual activities have the capacity to live longer, more fulfilling lives than those who eschew sexual communion. Imagine, enjoying a sex life in and beyond middle age, and in the process stimulating one's brain.

"People don't like to think that older people have sex. But we need to challenge this conception at a societal level", commented Dr. Hayley Wright of Coventry University, the study author. "There are countless reasons to continue having sex in your 50s and older, from improved emotional health to the many physical benefits", added Barbara Bloomfield, author of Couples Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex.

A team at McGill University in Montreal found in their 2016 research that women who engage in sex regularly also improve their memory function. The researchers discovered a link between sex on a regular basis and concomitant growth of nervous tissue in those areas of the brain controlling emotions and memory.

Research scientists at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital discovered older couples engaging in regular sex appeared five to seven years younger than their contemporaries who rarely indulge in sex. The ten-year study was led by Dr. David Weeks, who found that pleasure was derived from loving sex, releasing hormones making skin more elastic and youthful. Casual sex, he found, failed the test.

Dr. Carl Chenetski of Wilkes University in Pennsylvania led a study that found couples who have sex once or twice weekly produce 30 percent higher levels of IgA, which "is the first line of defence against colds and flu". Raising the body's levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA) represents yet another health bonus resulting from having regular sex.

Trinity College in Dublin found that couples who maintain a healthy sex life in their later years were not as likely to feel depressed, and exhibited more positive feelings about aging itself. Eight thousand people over age 50 took part in that study. Research also suggests that regular sex reduces the risk of heart attack. Sex engaged in at least once weekly was found by researchers at Queen's University in Belfast to cut the risk of heart attack or stroke in half.

So, what's keeping you?!
We can only speculate whether this is driven by social or physical elements – but an area we would like to research further is the biological mechanisms that may influence this.
"Every time we do another piece of research we are getting a little bit closer to understanding why this association exists at all, what the underlying mechanisms are, and whether there is a ‘cause and effect’ relationship between sexual activity and cognitive function in older people."
"People don’t like to think that older people have sex – but we need to challenge this conception at a societal level and look at what impact sexual activity can have on those aged 50 and over, beyond the known effects on sexual health and general well being." Dr. Hayley Wright, Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement, Coventry University, Coventry, England
Image credit: Shutterstock

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