Today's topic is near and dear to most of us: It's been scientifically demonstrated that it is healthful to have sex. However, before we proceed further, I must say that many of my patients are not currently in a mutually loving, safe relationship where sex is advisable. Some of my patients are not in a state of health where sex is advisable (or possible). Some of my patients are simply too young to have sexual relations. Putting these groups of people aside, I'll address whoever is remaining!The literature is filled with studies on the health benefits of having sex. Participating in regular and mutually enthusiastic sex confers a host of measurable physiological advantages for both men and women. Perhaps you've noticed the stress in our society! Sex helps to relieve stress. Studies show lower blood pressure following intercourse, as well as lower blood pressure in women simply in response to affection. In one study, traditional intercourse resulted in a greater stress reduction response than did other forms. Sex boosts immunity. Having sex once or twice per week has been linked to higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A. IgA can protect us from colds and other infections. Sex burns calories. It is a great physical and psychological workout. Thirty minutes can burn 200 calories, which is the equivalent to running 15 minutes on a treadmill or playing a spirited game of squash. The pulse can rise from a resting pulse of 70 to as high as 150 beats per minute. One calculation shows that you can burn off six Big Macs by having sex three times per week. One popular (men's) health magazine opines that sex is the single best exercise equipment ever invented. Sex can reduce pain. Immediately before orgasm, levels of the hormone oxytocin increase by a factor of five. This in turn releases endorphins, which have been shown to help to alleviate the pain of arthritis, headache, and even migraine. In women, sex also prompts production of estrogen, which can reduce the discomfort of PMS. Sex reduces the risk of prostate cancer. Frequent orgasms, especially in men in their 20's, appear to reduce the risk of prostate cancer later in life by a factor of up to one-third. Sex improves pelvic floor muscle tone and urinary incontinence in women. Kegels (pelvic floor muscle exercises) can help to develop these muscles, as can intercourse. Women who develop this muscle tone gain benefits including more sexual pleasure as well as strengthened muscles that help maintain continence later in life. Sex can improve cardiovascular health. Various studies have confirmed that having sex twice a week or more reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half for men, as compared to those who had sex less frequently than once a month. Sex improves the sense of smell: After sex, production of the hormone prolactin surges. This in turn causes stem cells in the brain to develop new neurons in the brain's olfactory bulb, the smell center. Sex helps you sleep better. The oxytocin released during orgasm promotes sleep. Being well rested, or course, is linked to numerous health benefits. The next time you are having trouble falling asleep, you may wish to try this non-chemical assistance. Other benefits linked to having regular sex, of course, include increased self-esteem and better trust and intimacy with your partner. I wish you all good health and a wonderful relationship! Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.
********** Published: August 12, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 17