Dr Alverston Bailey, Contributor
Scientific evidence now shows what many of us have suspected for some time - that good sex not only adds great enjoyment to our lives, but also improves our health and may even contribute to our longevity.
In a new book called Sexual Healing, Dr Paul Pearsall, director of behavioural medicine at Detroit's Beaumont Hospital, writes that the joys and pleasures of living life and loving may provide us with something called an 'intimacy inoculation' that actually protects us from disease.
Sexual healing is achieved primarily by maintaining a close, intimate relationship which, when accomplished, leads to better health.
Dr Pearsall cites research and his own clinical experience which indicate that sexual dissatisfaction seems to be prevalent prior to a heart attack in a high percentage of persons.
Benefits of sexLong life
In French, an orgasm means 'the little death' (la petite mort). This was so described because after an orgasm, an intense wave of calm and relaxation overcomes humans (that's why men usually fall asleep) and it is a time when people can truly liberate themselves. They experience a spiritual release called transcendence - a state of being or existence above and beyond the limits of material experience.
Sexual experts now say that having sex at least two times a week can increase your lifespan!
Just before orgasm, the hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) spikes to levels three to five times higher than usual. DHEA can boost your immune system, repair tissues, improve cognition, keep the skin healthy and act as an antidepressant.
In a study at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, a panel of judges viewed participants through a one-way mirror and guessed their ages. Those who looked seven to 12 years younger than their age (labelled 'super young') were also enjoying more sex - four times a week, on average. Improved sense of smell
After sex, production of the hormone prolactin surges. This in turn causes stem cells in the brain to develop new neurons in the brain's olfactory bulb - its smell centre.Reduced risk of heart disease
When we are aroused, our pulse quickens and the blood flow to our brain increases, increasing our cognitive function and increases oxygenation of our tissues.
In 2001, follow-on to the Queens University study mentioned above, researchers focused on cardiovascular health. They found that by having sex three or more times a week, men reduced their risk of heart attack or stroke by half. In reporting these results, the co-author of the study, Shah Ebrahim, PhD, stated: "The relationship found between frequency of sexual intercourse and mortality is of considerable public interest."
Making love regularly can also lower the levels of the body's total cholesterol and improve the levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. Improved fitness and well-being
A vigorous episode of sex burns about 200 calories - about the same as running 15 minutes on a treadmill or playing a hectic game of squash.
The pulse rate, in a sexually aroused person, rises from about 70 beats per minute to 150, the same as that of an athlete expending maximum effort.
Sex also boosts production of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. Men's Health magazine has called the bed "the single greatest piece of exercise equipment ever invented".
Regular lovemaking can increase a woman's oestrogen level, protect her heart and keep her vaginal tissues more supple. Dr Claire Bailey of the University of Bristol says there is little or no risk of a woman overdosing on sex. In fact, she says, "Regular sessions can enhance the tone of a woman's abdomen and buttocks and improve her posture." Improved mental health
A recent survey revealed that people who have more sex reported that they felt more at ease, happier and learned how to handle stress better. Many sexually active persons report that they sleep much better during the night and feel alive and refreshed throughout the day. So, one of the health benefits of sex is a better night's sleep, which allows you to handle day-to-day stressors. Pain relief
Immediately before orgasm, the levels of the hormone oxytocin surge to five times their normal rate. This in turn releases endorphins (hormone-like chemicals that bear a close functional resemblance to morphine), which is a potent analgesic (pain reliever).
Sex, therefore, can alleviate a myriad of painful conditions such as arthritis, migraine, pelvic congestion syndrome, lumbago, prostatitis, sinusitis, etc. In women, sex also elevates the levels of oestrogen, which can reduce the pain of premenstrual syndrome. Less-frequent colds and flu
Wilkes University in Pennsylvania says individuals who have sex once or twice a week show 30 per cent higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A, which is known to boost the immune system and reduce the frequency of common respiratory infections (coughs and colds). Better bladder control
Exercises strengthens the PC muscles which not only enhance the quality of sex, but can strengthen the bladder sphincter and prevent incontinence and uterovaginal prolapse.Prostate Protection
A study published by the British Journal of Urology International asserts that men in their 20s can reduce, by a third, their chance of getting prostate cancer by ejaculating more than five times a week.
As I have shown you, there are many health benefits of sex. In today's stressful society, it has become more difficult to have la petite mort as often as one would like, but if you make a conscious effort to achieve it, your expectations will be realised.The health benefits of sex will induce in you a sense of well-being within and without and you will gradually notice that the more sex you have, the more bounce you will have in each step.
But remember, sexually transmitted infections know no age boundary; so if you are sexually active, always practise safe sex.
Dr Alverston Bailey is a medical doctor and immediate past president of the Medical Association of Jamaica. Email comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or fax 922-6223.