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Want to Prolong Your Life? Have Sex Once a Week

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Want to Prolong Your Life? Have Sex Once a Week

Sex isn’t just for fulfilling the biological imperative to perpetuate the species. In fact, a healthy sexual relationship can benefit your life in several ways, including by prolonging it.

Marriage, of course, benefits from a happy sexual relationship, with satisfied partners reporting an afterglow that carries over long after the actual act of sex is over. This “afterglow” is associated with more satisfying relationships. But that’s not even close to all the benefits a healthy sex life can lead to.

There’s no cutoff age for enjoying the benefits of healthy sex. Even people of advanced age enjoy them. And people of working age who report a healthy sex life also report more job satisfaction and are more fully engaged with their work.

People who enjoy regular, satisfying sex also tend to have stronger immune systems, healthier hearts, better release of natural endorphins, better sleep, less stress, higher cognitive functioning, and improved self-esteem. Men who experience regular sex are also at lower risk of prostate cancer. How does sex do all of that? A new study is elucidating why sex may actually slow down aging and prolong life.

It’s All About Telomeres

Telomeres are like protective end-caps on the tips of our chromosomes. They appear to possess a protective function, because chromosomes with longer telomeres are less likely to experience unexpected altering of genetic information when cells divide. Short telomeres are less able to protect chromosomes, so cell division is more likely to result in scrambled genetic information. Over time, this can contribute to aging and disease.

People whose chromosomes have smaller, or weaker telomeres still have cells that divide to replace worn out cells, but without the protection of sturdy telomeres capping the ends of chromosomes, mutations are likelier, and that’s one factor that leads to normal aging and sometimes to the development of disease.

With age, telomeres on human chromosomes tend to get shorter, and natural symptoms of aging like decreased stamina eventually result. It appears that regular sex, however, may help telomeres stay longer and stronger, helping the body naturally fight the aging process.

Correlation and Causation: Not the Same

A recent study associating regular sex with healthier telomeres concluded that a healthy sexual relationship benefits mental and physical health. It also concluded that healthy sexual intimacy is associated with longer telomeres, at least in blood cells.

When such an association is noted in a scientific experiment, the question arises: do people who have regular sex develop healthier telomeres, or are people with healthier telomeres likelier to have regular sex? The study cannot tell which direction the association runs, and it’s entirely possible that the correlation is only coincidental. Nevertheless, the implications, should they be borne out in future studies, are exciting indeed. The study appears to corroborate the idea that a healthy sex life is associated with a healthier life in general as people get older.

How Regular Sex May Help Combat the Aging Process

Aside from the feel-good afterglow of enjoyable sex, how might a regular sex life fight the aging process? There are many theories. Some researchers theorize that sexual intimacy dampens activity of the body’s stress response system. Some speculate that regular sex strengthens the immune system. Is it possible that over the long term, great sex can lead to longer, stronger telomeres that help keep individual cells healthier? It’s possible, but scientists haven’t yet definitively determined whether it does.

Though researchers haven’t figured out the particulars of how sexual activity benefits telomeres, it makes sense, in that many bodily systems have a “use it or lose it” quality. The brain, for example, falls into this category. A growing body of research indicates that it takes practice to maintain cognitive performance over time, and evidence also suggests that a decline in cognitive performance is associated with retirement.

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Could reviving a dormant sex life benefit physical health the way regular brain activity benefits cognition? It would appear so. The human body is remarkably responsive to positive changes in lifestyle (such as a healthier diet, regular exercise, or stopping bad habits like smoking). In other words, age by itself shouldn’t prevent someone from enjoying sexual intimacy.

But What About Erectile Dysfunction?

Certainly, erectile dysfunction increases in prevalence with advancing age. But in many, if not most cases, erection health has to do with other, often reversible conditions that also increase with age, like clogged arteries. Likewise, men with diabetes (another condition that becomes more common as people get older) are likelier to experience erectile dysfunction. There’s quite a bit the average person can do to forestall these age-related changes, however, and enjoy better erections in the process.

We now know far more about what erectile dysfunction is and is not, and the most common causes of erectile dysfunction can be treated successfully. Before scientists understood how drugs like Viagra work (by improving blood flow to the penis), many men were made to feel as if their erection problems were psychological in origin. While that does happen, it’s rarer than we used to think. And of course, psychological pressure can turn into performance anxiety, which can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good news is, doctors are far more willing to treat erectile dysfunction as the circulatory problem it usually is, and this can give men back the possibility of a happy, healthy sex life.

Erectile Dysfunction Medications

No longer do men with erection problems have to suffer in silence or risk being labeled as “neurotic” by doctors who don’t understand erectile dysfunction. The typical family doctor or neurologist today understands that erection problems are often problems of hydraulics: getting the blood where it needs to go. And medications like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis address that very issue, offering relief to the majority of men with erection problems. Maybe it’s not easy for the average guy to bring up the topic of erectile dysfunction during a medical visit, but most doctors today are completely unfazed by talking about it.

Medication Plus Lifestyle Modification May Be Better Still

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Regular sex is associated with healthier telomeres on the ends of chromosomes.

Many of the issues that cause circulation changes, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, can be effectively addressed with lifestyle modification.

Doctors don’t just recommend quitting smoking, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and losing excess weight so they can feel superior. These changes really do improve heart health, keep blood glucose levels in check, and build stamina. They can also, by themselves or along with prescription medications, allow men to have better erections and hence better sex.

We all know that regular, enjoyable sex is great for feelings of self-esteem. New research also indicates that it’s good for the human body on a physiological level, helping keep telomeres healthy and potentially slowing the aging process. If problems with erections are preventing you from having the sex life you want, don’t give up. Today’s erectile dysfunction medications, particularly when coupled with positive lifestyle changes, can help men of all ages enjoy sex as part of their healthy lifestyle. Want to learn more about erectile dysfunction? We invite you to check out our extensive resources on the topic.

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About Don Amerman

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Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+