Older women win in the race of sex benefit
Women, however, have good news."Good sexual quality may protect older women from cardiovascular risk in later life," Lui said.
That makes sense, said Berman,because of the way that women view their sexual relationships.
"It's not so much the number of orgasms or how vigorous the sexual experience that predicts a woman's sexual satisfaction," Berman said. "It's how close she feels to the person she is having sex with, through kissing and cuddling as well as orgasms. That is the key to her emotional and physical well-being, which benefits her health and her heart, and everything else."
Men, however, are different. "The way men feel emotionally close to their partner is through the physical act of sex," Berman said. "They benefit from an emotional connection, but in their minds, they don't need it as much and don't get as stressed, anxious,depressed as a woman will. They will feel that way if they are not getting sex,but they won't see isolation as such a loss."
She added, "If a man is in a relationship, no matter what sort, he will live longer, but if a woman is in a bad relationship she will live less long."
The takeaway for older couples
However, what's an older couple to do when it comes to sex and the risk of heart disease?
"We need to weigh the cost-benefit analysis and allow the older sexual relationship to progress,because we're living longer in our society and we have to deal with this,"Berman advised. "I still believe that for the majority of older adults,the physical and emotion benefits outweigh the risk factors."
Campbell, the cardiologist, said,"Here's the bottom line. Patients need to talk about sex with their doctors, regularly, and on each office visit, so we can diagnose and address any concerns before they escalate." Levkoff agreed.
"All of this gets back to our inability or ability to communicate about sex and pleasure and health,"she said. "It's not surprising that an older population might have some discomfort about speaking up, but the conversation of sex and aging is one that we should have been having for years."