What Your Provider Says about Sex

Two pairs of feet sticking out from under the sheets

Sex. When done with caution and love, it’s enjoyable, but is it good for your health? Alexandra Hubbell, DO, UnityPoint Health, confirms the health benefits of sex, while helping you safely enjoy sex for years to come.

Health Benefits of Having Sex

For most, sex is pleasurable, but it also offers many health benefits, both physical and mental.

“During sexual intercourse, the body releases multiple hormones, two of which are oxytocin and endorphins,” Dr. Hubbell says. “Both of these hormones activate the pleasure centers of the brain and cause a reduction in overall stress. Sex also is physical activity, and you can burn anywhere from 80-250 calories.”

While it’s safe for most people to have sex, Dr. Hubbell explains why some patients should talk to their provider beforehand, especially if they have a history of heart problems.

“If you have any chronic medical conditions, you should discuss sexual activity with your primary care physician and/or cardiologist, who can help you determine if there is anything specifically you should avoid, as well as any symptoms to watch for. For example, if you currently take nitrates for a history of heart disease or heart failure, you should not take Viagra, or other medications for erectile dysfunction, as this could cause life-threatening low blood pressure,” Dr. Hubbell says.

Dr. Hubbell lists the following as things to watch for during sex. If you experience any of these, talk to a health care professional, immediately.

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe headache
  • Other personal symptoms that don’t usually occur

Tips for Safer Sex

Having sex regularly is a good thing, as long as you practice safe sex habits. Dr. Hubbell says patients should meet with their primary care provider to talk about preventive screenings for sex health.

“Screenings, such as pap smears, breast exams, testicular exams and sexually transmitted infections (STI), are recommended based on your age and risk status,” Dr. Hubbell says.

She also encourages having protected sex, no matter your age. There are multiple effective birth control methods, including different types of condoms, oral contraceptive, intra-uterine devices (IUD) and others. Depending on your current situation, you may also consider permanent forms of birth control, including vasectomy and tubal ligation.

Healthy Sex for Life

You might think you’ve passed the prime age for steamy sex. But, Dr. Hubbell says there’s no reason to let age slow you down.

“A study in the British Medical Journal from 2010 says, ‘Sexual partnership, frequency of sexual activity, a good quality sex life and interest in sex are positively associated with health among middle-aged and older adults in the United States.’ Based on this conclusion, I feel it’s safe to say a healthy sex life throughout your lifespan has a positive influence on your overall health.”

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