Having sex frequently – and enjoying it – puts older men at higher risk for heart attack and other cardiovascular problems. For older women, however, good sex may actually lower the risk of high blood pressure.

That’s according to the first large-scale study of how sex affects heart health in later life.

The findings challenge the widely held assumption that sex brings uniform health benefits to everyone, say the study authors.

The researchers analysed survey data from 2,204 people aged 57-85 who had been followed up for 5 years, looking at high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, elevated C-reactive protein (a biomarker that indicates inflammation and predicts risk of heart attack and stroke) and cardiovascular events (heart attack, heart failure, stroke).

Older men who had sex once a week or more were much more likely to experience a cardiovascular event 5 years later than men who were sexually inactive, the study found. This risk was not found in older women.

And those who found sex with their partner extremely pleasurable or satisfying had a particularly high cardiovascular risk, the researchers report.

Testosterone levels and the use of medication to improve sexual function are thought to play a role, say the researchers from Michigan State University.

For women, it’s a different story. Female participants who found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying had a lower risk of hypertension 5 years later than those 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 says.

Last Reviewed: 09/09/2016



Is Sex Good for Your Health? A National Study on Partnered Sexuality and Cardiovascular Risk among Older Men and Women. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022146516661597