TABLE OF CONTENTS
How to Navigate
Changes at Midlife
Sexual Problems at Midlife
Causes of Sexual Problems
Reminders & Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
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Healthy sexual function generally runs parallel with your physical, mental, and emotional health.
North Americans may be numb to advice about weight loss, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle, but sexual function is one area where these measures can really pay some tangible—and pleasurable—dividends. The fact is that healthy sexual function generally runs parallel with your physical, mental, and emotional health. So the same practices that promote your overall health—regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, regular sleep habits, and eating right—can boost your self-image, improve libido, promote healthy vaginal tissue, and help ensure you have the energy for sex.
Weight loss. Losing excess pounds is likely to make you feel more attractive, which can translate to increased confidence and interest in sex. Since extra weight can foster sluggishness, a slimmer you is likely to be more energetic and sexually motivated. And because being overweight or obese is a major risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, shedding pounds may reduce your risk of the sexual problems associated with those diseases.
Exercise. Arousal depends a lot on good blood flow, especially to the genitals. Good blood flow requires the heart and blood vessel strength that aerobic exercise promotes. Beyond that, exercise goes hand in hand with the benefits of weight loss mentioned above, and it also promotes improved sleep and brighter mood. Strength training can also have a hand in good sexual function, especially if it improves muscle tone in the pelvis, abdomen, and upper thighs.
Eating right. Like exercise, eating in moderation and with a focus on nutrition goes hand in hand with weight loss and delivers many of the same benefits, including a good energy level. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources will promote good overall health and may also reduce bowel irregularity, bloating, and similar symptoms that can keep you from feeling sexy.
Stopping smoking. Smoking is a major contributor to peripheral arterial disease, which curbs blood flow to the clitoris and vagina. Also, women who smoke experience menopause 2 years earlier, on average, than those who do not smoke. Talk to your healthcare provider about the many stop-smoking aids now available, including prescription drugs and nicotine patches or gum.
Moderation in alcohol use. Alcohol tends to diminish sexual response in both sexes by dulling the central nervous system. In women, alcohol may trigger hot flashes and interfere with sleep, worsening other common problems during the menopause transition.
Adequate and regular sleep. Ensuring that you get enough restful shut-eye every night—ideally 7 to 8 hours—will boost your energy level and may help avoid weight gain.
Regular stimulation for vaginal health. The vagina, like other parts of the body, can become stiff and sore if it’s not exercised enough. Continuing sexual activity on a regular basis—with a partner or by self-stimulation—helps maintain vaginal stretchiness and moisture by maintaining better blood flow. This means more comfortable and more satisfying sex. The general rule is, the more often you have sex, the lower your risk of severe vaginal thinning, dryness, and tightness. If you don't have a partner, using a dilator or a dildo can help maintain your vagina’s stretchability.