Brier Jirka is a sex therapist with the Methodist Physicians Clinic Women's Center. She blogs every other Tuesday for livewellnebraska.com. Read more from Brier here.
If you haven't been wearing red on Fridays this month, this week is your last chance.
The national initiative by the American Heart Association aims to raise awareness about heart disease in women, which according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, is the gender's No. 1 killer.
Last year I was privileged to speak at the “Go Red for Women” event hosted by the Nebraska chapter of the AHA. It was great to bring my expertise in sexual behavior and talk about its positive impact on women's bodies.
I shared with the ladies the many different ways sex and healthy relationships can be good for your heart and overall health.
I found a great resource in fellow sex therapist, Ynonne K. Fullbright, who wrote an article on the topic called, “Sex your Way to better Health: A Dozen Reasons why you Should Have Sex Tonight.”
I also referred to cardiologist Henry G. Stratmann and his wife Maryellen, who wrote a book titled “Sex and your Heart Health: A Cardiologist Tells All”.
Here are the top 10 health-related reasons for women to have sex:
1. Better circulation. Your heart rate can increase from 70 to 150 beats per during sex, pumping that much more oxygen into your system. Having sex twice a week can actually decrease the risk of having a heart attack.
2. Immune booster. Those who are sexually active take fewer sick days – we're talking actual sick days, not the fake kind – and may help your immune system. This means that you can't use the “I'm sick” excuse for not wanting to be intimate with your partner anymore.
3. Reduces stress. Intimacy helps reduce your cortisol (stress hormone) level. Some people worry about sexual activity causing a heart attack because it can be strenuous, but recent Japanese research found that it may be the stress and anxiety some people have about sex that causes the heart attack – not the actual act itself. Looking for further proof? The study found that most men who died during sex were cheating on their wives. Now there's a reason to stay faithful!
4. Pain management. During intimate moments your body releases endorphins, in some cases by five times their normal level, which have been shown to directly reduce pain. Sex is also known to lessen the pressure on the brain's blood vessels, good for those who suffer from migraines. The release of estrogen during sex can help women with menstrual cramps, too, assuming the woman is still producing estrogen.
5. Better sleep. An active night in the bedroom will result in better sleep, thanks to the release of oxytocin, which is partly responsible for telling the body when it's time to rest.
6. Weight loss. You can burn up to 200 calories every 30 minutes, the equivalent of 15 minutes on a treadmill. Keep in mind, this isn't 30 minutes of actual intercourse, rather sexual play. Sex can also strengthen your muscles and improve your flexibility.
7. Emotional health. Being intimate with your partner on a regular basis makes for a healthy relationship. Stress, anger, anxiety and loneliness contribute to heart attack risk as much as smoking and high cholesterol.
8. Lower blood pressure. The Journal of Biological Psychology has reported that couples that live together and have frequent sex tend to have lower diastolic blood pressure. While there may be a spike “in the moment,” a person's overall blood pressure drops over time when more sexually active.
9. Look younger: I'm all about embracing the way we age – it's what gives us character – but who doesn't want a little natural help? Sweating during sex is great for cleansing your pores, and the release of estrogen leads to softer skin and silky hair. Knowing how much I spend on facials and hair products, this sounds like a much better option on my wallet.
10. Longevity. Research is starting to indicate that increased orgasms, we're talking 100 per year, could be linked to adding 3 to 8 years to your lifespan and decreases death by 50 percent. I teach patients that orgasm is not the sole focus of sexual play, but it does have wonderful effects on your body.