IT'S the age-old debate - is sex in your later years good for your health?
Sadly, it appears the answer for those aged in their mid-50s or older might depend on whether you're a man or a woman.
According to a study from the US, older men who have sex once or more a week could actually be at greater risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke, whereas women are at lower risk of hypertension and heart problems.
The study, which evaluated the cardiovascular risks associated with regular sexual activity in 2200 seniors aged between 57 and 85-years-old over a 10-year period, found that men who said they had sex at least once a week at the start of the survey period were almost twice as likely to have experienced a heart attack, heart failure or stroke five years later than men who said they were sexually inactive.
At the start of the survey, 70% of men and 39% of women said they'd had sex with a partner over the previous year. A quarter of men said they had sex once a week or more, compared to 11% of women.
Even more worrying, the study found that the level of pleasure experienced may also have an impact on your heart health, with those who felt sex was extremely satisfying even more likely to suffer one of these events.
However, the opposite was found for older women, with women who said they found sex to be extremely pleasurable or satisfying at the start of the survey had lower risk of high blood pressure five years later than female participants who did not feel that way.
Dr Hui Lui, associate professor of sociology at Michigan State Universi, who led the study, said: "The results for women are consistent with our expectation, but the results for men were surprising.
"Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax."
However, Dr Lui clarified: "Moderate frequent sex is good for older men, although high frequency of sex is risky for older men. For older women, good sexual quality is good for them.
"I think it is important for older people to understand the risks and benefits of sex," she said. "It is not that all sex is bad for older people."
The study also suggested that medication to improve sexual function could have a negative effect on the cardiovascular health of older men.
The study, which is published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, suggested that while women appear to benefit from an active sex life in later years, this could be because they are more receptive than men to strong, deep and close relationships as an important source of social and emotional support.
This "may reduce stress and promote psychological well-being and, in turn, cardiovascular health", they report concluded.
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