In one of those incredibly rare cases where things work out better for women than for men, it appears a regular, robust sex life into a man’s late-50s through mid-80s is linked to an increased risk of heart problems like stroke and heart attack. For women, however, there doesn’t appear to be any risk for illness at all — if anything, women who have “highly enjoyable” sex as they age tend to have lower blood pressure.
According to the Guardian, the new data on how sex affects our health as we age comes from one of the first major studies on the subject, carried out by a research team from the University of Michigan. More than 2,200 people between the ages of 57 and 85 enrolled in the study.
From that pool of participants, the researchers found that men in their late 50s through early 80s who have sex at least once a week have double the risk of experiencing heart attacks, strokes, or other cardiovascular issues over the next five years, compared to men who didn’t regularly engage in sex. And health outcomes are even more grim for men who have enjoyable sex — the researchers found that men who enjoyed sex the most were more likely to suffer heart problems.
As Hui Liu, a sociologist who led the study, told the Guardian, men might experience heart problems related to sex because they “exhaust themselves more than younger men in an effort to reach an orgasm,” which would also explain why men who enjoy sex more are at greater risk for cardiovascular problems (I’m guessing, in this case, enjoyability directly relates to reaching an orgasm). Medications that help boost sexual function (like Viagra) might also be a factor in how sex is damaging to the hearts of older men.
Women in their mid-50s through early-80s, on the other hand, seem to benefit from regular, good sex. It has pretty much the exact opposite effect on women compared to men, in lowering women’s blood pressure and decreasing the risk of future heart problems. So! What are older folks in heterosexual relationships supposed to do? The study doesn’t necessarily offer up any suggestions — but maybe take all this into account if you’re someone who has sex with a man in the study’s 57- to 85-year-old age bracket. Be careful out there and exercise caution. A sex-induced heart attack sounds like the least sexy way to finish.
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