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Healthy Sex May Stop Memory Loss

Lower Satisfaction Linked To Cognitive Decline

healthy sex and Alzheimer’s prevention

By John Salak –

A healthy sex life has more benefits than the obvious ones. It may lower the risk of cognitive decline later in life. 

There are other benefits as well. It is widely acknowledged that a healthy sex life can burn calories and strengthen certain muscles. The Cleveland Clinic reports it can also build heart health, strengthen immune systems, relieve stress and can even reduce pain because the body releases endorphins during sex. 

Penn State researchers now report that low sexual satisfaction in middle age may serve as an early warning sign for future cognitive decline. The related study, which tracked associations between erectile function, sexual satisfaction and cognition in hundreds of men aged 56 through 68, found that declines in sexual satisfaction and erectile function were correlated with future memory loss.

“What was unique about our approach is that we measured memory function and sexual function at each point in the longitudinal study, so we could look at how they changed together over time,” reported study co-author Professor Martin Sliwinski. “What we found connects to what scientists are beginning to understand about the link between life satisfaction and cognitive performance.”

The study explored the relationship between physical changes like the microvascular changes relevant for erectile function and psychological changes, such as lower sexual satisfaction, to determine how the changes relate to cognition. This focus included examining the shifts starting in middle age because it represents a transition period where declines in erectile function, cognition and sexual satisfaction begin to emerge.

The good news is the Penn State team identified the link between healthy sex and Alzheimer’s prevention. The bad news is that the research did not identify a cause. 

“Scientists have found that if you have low satisfaction generally, you are at a higher risk for health problems like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and other stress-related issues that can lead to cognitive decline,” Sliwinski said. “Improvements in sexual satisfaction may actually spark improvement in memory function. We tell people they should get more exercise and eat better foods. We’re showing that sexual satisfaction also has importance for our health and general quality of life.”

The researcher noted their work took a different tack from previous sexual health studies, which focused on quantifiable facets of sexuality like the number of sexual partners or frequency of sexual activity.

“What we were interested in is the perception of that activity, how someone feels about their sex life, and how that influences cognitive function because multiple people could be in the same situation physically but experience completely different levels of satisfaction,” explained lead author Riki Slayday, a doctoral candidate at the university

The work revealed that decreases in erectile function and sexual satisfaction was both associated with memory decline, which indicates a connection between psychological and physical health, according to the researchers.

“When we mapped the relationship over time, we found increases or decreases in erectile function and sexual satisfaction were associated with concurrent increases or decreases in cognitive function,” Slayday said. “These associations survived adjustment for demographic and health factors, which tells us there is a clear connection between our sex lives and our cognition.”

The work underscores the need to increase assessment and monitoring of erectile function as a vital sign of health as it may help identify those at risk of cognitive decline before their 70s, he stressed. This is particularly important since the size of the older U.S. adult population is expected to double over the next 30 years. This means twice as many people will likely enter their 60s with possible declines in erectile function and sexual satisfaction.

“We already have a pill for treating erectile dysfunction. What we don’t have is an effective treatment for memory loss,” Sliwinski said. “Instead of the conversation being about treating ED, we should see that as a leading indicator for other health problems and also focus on improving sexual satisfaction and overall well-being, not just treating the symptom.”





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