Here's something to look forward to as an estrogen-based creature trudging slowly toward your twilight years: Good sex increases an older man's risk of heart problems, while it effectively lowers older women's blood pressure. Says science! A new study out of Michigan State University found that older men who were having sex at least once a week were twice as likely to experience cardiovascular issues than men who had sex less frequently. The truly brutal bummer was that men who described sex with their partners as "extremely pleasurable" or "satisfying" were at an even greater risk.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior , looked at the medical records of 2,204 people aged 57 to 85 over 2005 and 2006. Researchers found that cisgender male participants in this age group who had sex once a week or more were twice as likely to suffer "heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular conditions" over the next five years. Conversely, such frequent, high-quality sex reported by cisgender women in the same age group was actually linked to lower blood pressure.
Sociologist Hui Liu, who authored the study, told The Guardian , "Good sexual quality may protect older women from cardiovascular risk in later life."
There are a few reasons behind the disconnect in why women and men's health were so disproportionately affected by good sex in old age. For one thing, the study notes, the hormone release of an orgasm in women boosts intimacy and relieves stress. Liu notes that men are more likely to receive support from their female partners — even when the relationship is bad — than women are from their male partners. So the extra sex boost is helpful for women's emotional health in the relationship, which, of course, affects physiological health.
Men, however, have a tendency to "exhaust themselves" during sex, which the study says can "create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax." Performance enhancing drugs like Viagra can contribute to the problem, along with high testosterone levels, which both increases men's desire for sex and puts them at risk for hypertension.
Although some studies suggest that women’s health is especially vulnerable to poor relationships, our results reveal an optimistic finding: women’s cardiovascular health can benefit from a rewarding sexual relationship.
Keep that ray of sunshine in your pocket for 20 to 50 years from now, friends.