Having sex once a week or more — and enjoying it — puts older men at higher risk for heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, warns a new study.
For older women, however, good sex may actually lower the risk of hypertension, the study noted.
“These findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone,” said Hui Liu, Associate Professor at Michigan State University in the US.
“Strikingly, we find that having sex once a week or more puts older men at a risk for experiencing cardiovascular events that is almost two times greater than older men who are sexually inactive,” Liu said.
“Moreover, older men who found sex with their partner extremely pleasurable or satisfying had higher risk of cardiovascular events than men who did not feel so,” she noted.
Liu and colleagues analysed survey data from 2,204 people who were aged 57-85 when the first wave of data was collected in 2005-06; another round of data was collected five years later.
Cardiovascular risk was measured as hypertension, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein and general cardiovascular events — heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
Older men who had sex once a week or more were much more likely to experience cardiovascular events five years later than men who were sexually inactive, the study found.
This risk was not found among older women, said the study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour.
The findings suggest the strain and demands from a sexual relationship may be more relevant for men as they get older, become increasingly frail and suffer more sexual problems.
“Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax,” she explained.
Ultimately, while moderate amounts of sex may promote health among older men, having sex too frequently or too enjoyably may be a risk factor for cardiovascular problems,” said Liu.
For women, it was a different story. Female participants who found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying had lower risk of hypertension five years later than female participants who did not feel so.
“For women, we have good news: Good sexual quality may protect older women from cardiovascular risk in later life,” Liu said.
Previous studies suggest that strong, deep and close relationship is an important source of social and emotional support, which may reduce stress and promote psychological well-being and, in turn, cardiovascular health.
Moreover, the female sexual hormone released during orgasm may also promote women’s health, she said.