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Top 5 Things to Know About Sexual Health and Aging

Top 5 Things to Know About Sexual Health and Aging

Top 5 Things to Know About Sexual Health and Aging

1. Sex is good for your health. A healthy sex life can be good for your stress levels, blood pressure, and heart, and it might even boost your immune system. Those who are having sex were shown in one study to cope better with stressful situations, such as public speaking. It has also been shown that blood pressure is lowered by physical contact, such as holding hands and long hugs. Your heart rate with orgasm is about the same as your heart rate walking up a flight of stairs, which counts as light exercise! Finally, a study showed that people who had sex once or twice a week had higher levels of immunoglobulin, a protein made by the body that helps us fend off illness.

2. Sex drive may change with age. There are many reasons why people lose some of their sex drive. Low libido is evaluated using the biopsychosocial model of health. This model looks at biological elements including hormones, physical health, disability, and genetic issues; psychological well-being including thoughts, emotions, social skills, and self-esteem; and social factors such as the length of a relationship, cultural traditions, education, and socioeconomic status. All influence sex drive and can change over time. A proper evaluation of low sex drive takes these variables into consideration. Often, the most effective process is to work with both your doctor and a sex therapist to address these concerns. It’s common for women to lose interest in sex around the time of menopause. Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), vaginal moisturizers, and low-dose vaginal topical estrogen can often help if you want to maintain a physical relationship with your partner.

3. Health conditions can change your sex life. Any condition that affects your general health and well-being can impact your sexual health. High blood pressure, diabetes, osteoarthritis, hormone changes, and depression are among those seen the most. Illnesses that involve the cardiovascular system can be particularly problematic. Some of the medications used to treat high blood pressure can impair your ability to become aroused. Other medications used to treat anxiety and depression can make it difficult to have an orgasm. The emotional stress that follows a significant diagnosis can also impact your sex life. You may be worried about the appearance of scars and whether your partner still finds you attractive. Illness may have also changed the nature of your relationship, making one of you more dependent on the other than before. Sometimes the barrier to sexual activity isn’t the patient, but the partner. It’s important to communicate and talk about your concerns and feelings with your partner.

4. It’s a myth that older people are not sexually active. 20% of the US population will be over age 65 by 2030. While sexual activity declines with age, both men and women continue to participate into their 80s and 90s. The desire for intimacy is timeless. One study showed that approximately 25% of individuals from age 80-85 had been sexually active within the past year. Across all age groups, more men participated than women. Sexual satisfaction has been linked to quality of life throughout a person’s life, regardless of age.

5. STIs in older people are on the rise. You may think sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are only a problem for younger people, but anyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting one. It has recently been shown that rates of some STIs in older people are climbing. Anyone at any age who has a new sexual partner, or more than one sexual partner, is potentially at risk. Condoms are the only form of contraception that will help protect you from an infection. If you are worried you might have contracted an STI, you can talk to your doctor or get tested at a sexual health clinic.

Helping ensure your sexual health is vibrant is one of the ways Dr. West takes a holistic approach to working with members of her concierge internal medicine practice. Give us a call at 571-999-9378 if you are a current member and would like help with this issue, or are interested in becoming a member.

Eileen West, MD, FACP, NCMP, CCD

Leading the way in women's healthcare is renowned board-certified internal medicine doctor Dr. Eileen West. She has over 20 years of experience and is recognized for her expertise in menopause, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease prevention. Her excellence-driven compassionate approach, which is associated with the American College of Physicians, improves the lives of her patients by putting a strong emphasis on their overall well-being.

Location: Fairfax, Virginia

Areas of Expertise: Women's Health, Menopause Management, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, Osteoporosis Diagnosis and Treatment.

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