Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
That we live in what can seem like an oversexed society is difficult to dispute given the extensive, sometimes exploitative media attention given to sexiness and having sex. However, given what is now understood as the many health benefits of a robust sex life, it behooves all of us to pay attention to this highly personal but important topic. While the list provided here by no means describes every helpful aspect of sex, it will hopefully inspire those who read it to have the healthiest sex life possible. Benefits of a healthy love life include:
1. Better Relationships
Oxytocin, which is often referred to as the bonding hormone, is best known for its increase during breastfeeding and is thought to enhance the bond between mothers and their babies. It turns out that levels of this hormone also increase during intimate acts between adults. This is apparently true whether the hormone is generated by having sex, hugging, or other relationship enhancing behaviors. It therefore enhances bonding between everyone from to friends, parent and child or adults, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.
2. Lower Stress Levels
As increased levels of oxytocin, as are generated by sexual activity, tend to decrease anxiety and pain sensations, stress levels associated with anxiety and pain have also been found to fall as a result.
3. Better Self-Perception of Feeling Healthy
Since lower levels of cortisol (considered a stress hormone) and higher levels of oxytocin are associated with higher feelings of well-being, it stands to reason that activities like sexual intercourse that enhance those changes make people feel better, no matter what their life is otherwise like.
4. Lower Blood Pressure and Fewer Strokes
Sexual activity has been found to increase the level of oxytocin, particularly in women. That in turn seems to lessen how strongly the body reacts to stress. Among other things, oxytocin decreases how narrowed blood vessels become in reaction to stress, thereby decreasing blood pressure and strokes that can be caused by high blood pressure.
5. Improved Functioning of the Immune System
The negative effects that excessive stress can have on the immune system are well understood. Having sex on a regular basis decreases stress, and adds to its credibility as an booster to the body's ability to fight infection.
6. Less Often Cognitively Disabled With Age
7. Less Physically Disabled With Age
Even for individuals who are already disabled, those with a more active sex life seem to be less likely to suffer further disability as they age when living with a spouse, compared to already disabled persons with a less satisfying sex life.
8. Fewer Heart Attacks
The lower reaction to stress that is associated with higher oxytocin levels translates into lower risk of heart attacks.
9. Lower Risk of Certain Cancers
10. Longer Life
Studies have found that overall health is positively associated with being interested in having sex, engaging in sexual activity, and the quality thereof in persons in middle age and beyond. The reverse seems to be true as well, in that poor health is associated with having low interest, frequency, and quality of sex.
The take home point about the health benefits of sex is to be safe, have fun, and know that it is good for your health throughout your life.
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