The paper's findings have wide implication for attitudes toward public health and how patients respond to doctors' advice. If a doctor tells a man diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure that losing weight could mean five extra years of sex life, that could be a powerful incentive.
Women outlive men by an average of five to six years and without a partner, women are less likely to engage in sex. Also, while there is a cultural acceptance for drugs such as Viagra for men, this is not necessarily the case for women.
Healthy sex cannot be underestimated as a factor for reducing stress, bolstering self-esteem, and fostering feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners. But the real point of this article is really the fact that a healthy sex life can provide for a longer, healthier, and most would agree, more enjoyable, life.
A previous study, published in 1997, tracked the overall health with sexual frequency and the mortality of roughly 1,000 middle-aged men over the course of a decade. Interestingly, men who reported the highest frequency of orgasm experienced half the death rate.
Other studies have also correlated frequency of sex with:
- An improved sense of smell
- A reduced risk of heart disease
- Weight loss and overall fitness
- Reduced depression
- Pain relief
- Less-frequent colds and flu
- Better bladder control
This latest study, which examined the relation between health and several dimensions of sexuality, concluded:
“Sexual activity, good quality sexual life, and interest in sex were higher for men than for women and this gender gap widened with age. Sexual activity, quality of sexual life, and interest in sex were positively associated with health in middle age and later life.
Sexually active life expectancy was longer for men, but men lost more years of sexually active life as a result of poor health than women.”
As common-sense as this CNN report might seem, I think lead researcher, Dr. Tessler Lindau, could be onto something when she says,
“… the paper's findings have wider implication for attitudes toward public health and how patients respond to doctors' advice.
If you are a man diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure and I tell you that you need to lose weight and take medication, and I can say the benefit is five extra years of sex life, you might be more inclined to do what I tell you.
Hopefully, most of you will realize that taking medication for diabetes and high blood pressure is not in your best long term interest, and is more likely to take years off your life than add to it, but overall, isn’t it great to know that optimizing your health could have a major impact on your sex life, well into old age?
Here, the researchers found that men who were in very good or excellent health at the age of 55 gained an average of five to seven years of sexually active life compared with men who had poorer health.
And, although a man’s health appears to have a greater impact on the quality and quantity of his sex life than women, women too were found to gain 3-6 years of quality sex life by staying healthy.
Part of the discrepancy between men and women in this respect may be the availability of libido enhancing drugs, such as Viagra, which are now sold and perused by men of all ages without much stigma attached to them.
Female sexual dysfunction, on the other hand, is still a largely ignored problem.
The Problem with Potency Pills and Impotence Drugs
As with so many other drugs, many people turn to sexual enhancement drugs looking for a magic pill. But here too we find that the lure of a quick fix is little more than a mirage. There are instances where the erectile dysfunction (ED) has a mechanical or chemical component where a drug or surgical procedure might be helpful, but in most cases, other much simpler factors are at play.
For example, you need to remember that the erection really begins in the man’s brain. (Ditto for women, by the way.)
Your brain stem emits nerve impulses that control erectile function. These nerve impulses navigate through the erection center of your spinal column to the erectile tissue of your penis, where they trigger a chain reaction in the membranes of your vascular muscle cells. This sophisticated chain reaction is dependent on a messenger molecule called cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or cGMP.
However, this works in reverse as well; an erection softens as soon as another enzyme called phosphodiesterase starts to degrade the cGMP molecules.
Drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis, work by inhibiting phosphodiesterase and increasing nitric oxide production, which may help maintain erections. But, these pills will not create an erection in and of themselves.
Initial erection still has to be triggered psychologically. Without that initial impetus, potency pills will have no effect whatsoever.
However, these drugs, like most others, come with a slew of potentially dangerous side effects, such as:
Some of these side effects clearly do not contribute to a long, healthy life! Nor would they entice you into romantic play.
If you’ve done your homework, you’ll find that it’s becoming more and more evident that erectile dysfunction are merely a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle, and no amount of drugs can cure that.
Fortunately, there are a number of lifestyle choices that can contribute to restoring healthy sexual function, and as for potency pills, there are alternatives that are far safer than Viagra.
Herbs like Panax ginseng and Maca root have been used for centuries as libido-boosting tonics. And the amino acid L-arginine has a beneficial influence on blood vessel health, which indirectly can benefit erectile dysfunction by improving cardiovascular function.
Researchers have actually determined that heart disease underlies some forms of erectile dysfunction. Among men with heart disease, 75 percent also have problems with erections. In fact, impotence can be an early warning sign of coronary artery disease, since the penis is more sensitive to slow-downs in blood flow than the heart is.
In addition, men with high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes and smoking are substantially more likely to have trouble getting erections.
If this fits your description, you’ll want to continue reading, as the lifestyle changes I will discuss at the end of this article will help you address these health problems as well.
But first, let’s get back to safer, more natural drug alternatives, such as L-arginine.
It appears to help with erectile dysfunction by enhancing the action of nitric oxide, which in turn helps relax your blood vessels, including those supplying blood to your penis. As blood vessels in your penis dilate, it increases blood flow, which helps maintain an erection. (This is also how drugs like Viagra work.)
However, it’s important to realize that L-arginine is not a magic potion in and of itself either.
Some studies have found its effectiveness alone is on par with a placebo. But several studies have concluded that L-arginine in combination with other herbs is a remarkably effective treatment for mild to moderate ED.
In combination with yohimbine, it’s also been found to increase sexual arousal in postmenopausal women with sexual arousal disorder.
In men, L-arginine combined with pycnogenol (a plant extract from the bark of a French maritime pine tree) provided “significant improvement in sexual function in men with ED without any side effects,” according to the researchers of one study.
And the combination of 6 grams of L-arginine with 6 mg yohimbine was found to be “a promising addition to first-line therapy for ED,” according to a pilot study published in the journal European Urology.
Other supplements that could be worthwhile are choline and vitamin B5.
The neurotransmitter that triggers that sexual messages in your brain, whether you’re male or female, is acetylcholine (ACH). With too little ACH, sexual activity goes down. One way to safely and effectively enhance your ACH levels is to take choline supplements (1,000-3,000 mg) and vitamin B5 (500-1,500 mg).
Lifestyle Choices that Can Make or Break Your Sex Life
Listen, Viagra is really unnecessary in a vast majority of men if they:
- Follow a proper diet
- Engage in adequate physical activity
- Get an adequate amount of sleep
- Avoid medications, many of which can cause or exacerbate impotence
- Avoid smoking and excessive drinking
Common sense will tell you that exercise may ward off impotence for the same reasons it can prevent heart attacks -- by keeping blood vessels clear. In one large, long-term study, researchers found that men who burned at least 200 calories a day through exercise were less likely than inactive men to become impotent.
Remember, just like most things in medicine the best “cure” for erectile dysfunction is prevention. Don’t just accept the notion that erectile dysfunction is a “normal part of aging,” and that you need a drug to keep going.
Instead, take a look at your habits, and incorporate the following healthy lifestyle changes to enjoy a healthy sex life for as long as possible:
- Start an exercise program -- Remember, when using exercise as a drug, it is important to set a goal of 60 to 90 minutes per day, every day. Obviously, depending on your current condition, you may need to work slowly up to this level.
- Optimize your diet based on your body's unique nutritional type – Everyone has a unique nutritional type and each type demands varying ratios of macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) to function optimally.
- Optimize your insulin levels, as this simple measure has a profound influence on every area of your health, including your sex life. This means severely limiting your sugar intake, especially fructose. For more information on how fructose wrecks your insulin sensitivity, please see this previous article.
- Address your emotions by learning the Emotional Freedom Technique/Meridian Tapping Technique (EFT/MTT). It’s a proven energy psychology tool we use daily in my clinic. EFT/MTT is a simple acupressure technique that can help you effectively address your stress-related thoughts and leave you feeling calmer and more able to face your challenges.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels as this nutrient is essential for optimal expression of some 2,000 genes in your body, which has an effect on countless diseases and ailments. Vitamin D deficiency is also associated with cardiovascular disease.