Sex Your Way to a Healthier Heart

While evidence has been building about the overall health benefits of sexual activity, including easing depression and stress and relieving pain, a new study has found that men who have sex twice a week have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, followed nearly 1,200 men, mostly in their 50s, who had no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD)—such as heart disease, stroke or peripheral arterial disease—over a period of 16 years. Two hundred and thirteen of the volunteers did suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) at the start of the study. Erectile dysfunction, also called impotence, is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.

The study researchers found that men who reported being engaged in sexual activity once a month or less had a 45 percent higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the course of the study than men who reported having sex twice a week or more. While previous studies have explored the link between ED and CVD, this was the first study to examine a link between frequency of sexual activity and risk of heart disease separate from erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction can be a precursor of heart disease.

"Our results suggest that a low frequency of sexual activity predicts [cardiovascular disease] independently of [erectile dysfunction] and that screening for sexual activity might be clinically useful," wrote the study researchers.

More Sex Is Good News for Women Too

Although this recent study only examined the effects of sexual activity and heart health in men, medical experts say it's fair to assume a similar heart benefit in women who engage in frequent sexual activity as well. Plus, other studies have shown a reduction in risks for other serious illnesses in people who engage in frequent sex, including breast and prostate cancer. Sexual activity can also prolong life, help people lose weight-each sexual encounter reportedly burns between 50 and 60 calories, so if you have sex three times a week for a month, you could use up about 700 calories, the equivalent of jogging for seven miles—ease menopausal symptoms, boost immunity, improve sleep and help you look younger.

If lack of sex drive (low libido) is preventing you from engaging in regular sexual intercourse with your partner or spouse, talk to you doctor to determine the cause and find a solution.