Heart disease isn't preventing many older women from staying active in the bedroom, a study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology has found.
Researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson analyzed data on more than 2,700 postmenopausal women who had been diagnosed with heart disease. The women ranged in age from 50 to 79 - nearly half were in their 60s and 37% were in their 70s. Data came from the Medical Outcomes Study in the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study, and was based on self-reports of the women's sexual activity and sexual problems.
Of the participants, 39% reported being sexually active, and of those, 65% said they had at least one sexual problem. These included lack of interest, an inability to relax, difficulty in arousal or in achieving orgasm, and discomfort during sex.
Factors such as younger age, fewer years since menopause, having better self-reported health, lack of chest discomfort, and not being depressed increased the likelihood of a woman being sexually active. Of those who were sexually active, women who were not married, who were better educated, who had better self-reported health, and who had higher body mass indexes reported fewer sexual problems.
"Many women with heart disease continue to engage in sexual activity into their 70s and two thirds of these report discomfort and other sexual function problems," wrote the authors. "Physicians should be aware that postmenopausal patients are sexually active and address the problems that these women experience."
While male sexual dysfunction, particularly in old age, has been widely explored and a variety of treatments for men are available, the options for older women experiencing sexual problems still come up short.
Researchers have been investigating the use of testosterone as a means of boosting women's interest in sex; however, one recent study found that male sex hormone had no clear tie to female sexual desire and arousal. But experts say using a vaginal lubricant can improve sex after menopause by reducing dryness, and point out that a reduced libido can also be a side effect of some heart medications and antidepressants.
Exercise can also give libido a boost by increasing your energy levels and improving body image. And, as studies show, it can be good for the heart too. Just make sure to check with your doctor before you begin a new fitness program.
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