Staying healthy can enhance the sex lives of both you and your partner.
While American attitudes toward sex and sexuality have come a long way since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, many men and women in this country still feel somewhat uncomfortable discussing matters of sexual health with their doctors and other medical professionals.
In the view of the Cleveland Clinic, an open discussion of sexuality is essential to the promotion of sexual health and responsibility. Without free and open communications about sexuality, the Cleveland-based medical center believes it will be difficult to realize the goals of the World Health Organization, which in 1975 called upon the nations of the world to promote sexual education and health.
WHO on Sexual Rights
In its 1975 declaration, WHO stated that “there are fundamental rights for the individual, including . . . freedom from organic disorders, diseases, and deficiencies that interfere with sexual and reproductive function.”
In the absence of broad national or regional initiatives to advance the cause of sexual health, individual men and women can act on their own behalf to safeguard that health and improve the quality of their sexual lives by candidly sharing their concerns with health professionals.
Beyond that, of course, some common-sense measures can help to improve the sexual health of both men and women. Of the suggestions that follow, most apply to both sexes.
Men and women who maintain a regular regimen of physical exercise can realize significant benefits in their sex lives, according to EverydayHealth.com. Regular exercise helps to keep the cardiovascular system in good working order, which for men is reflected in a healthy sex drive and the ability to get and keep an erection strong enough for sexual activity.
For women, regular physical activity increases the level of sex hormones and endorphins, which helps women to feel better. Exercise also helps women to improve their body image, according to Jennifer Berman, M.D., a urologist and expert in female sexual medicine. Berman is the director of the Berman Women’s Wellness Center in Beverly Hills, California.
Watch the Alcohol Intake
Most of you recognize that alcohol serves as a social lubricant, helping you to relax and making it easier to socialize. It also lowers inhibitions a bit and can help set the stage for romance. Drinking too much, however, can quickly turn your dreams of love into a nightmare.
Whether it’s step aerobics, jogging, or walking the treadmill, regular exercise can help you to maintain and improve your sexual health.
For men, too much alcohol can make it difficult or even impossible to achieve an erection. For those heavy drinkers lucky enough to be able to get it up, the effects of the alcohol are likely to make it go soft before sexual activity is completed.
Sex is all about sensation, and drinking too much dulls your senses, which detracts from the pleasure that sex provides.
For both sexes, heavy alcohol intake over time has negative effects on overall health, which is essential in order to ensure you’ll be able to enjoy sex for as long as possible during your lifetime.
The ill-effects of smoking on the health of your heart and lungs are well-known. But this nasty habit can take a lot of the fun out of sex too. If only one sex partner is a smoker, the act of kissing for the nonsmoker can be compared to planting a big wet one on a half-filled ashtray.
Both men and women need strong blood flow to their sexual organs in order to promote optimal function and to make these organs as sensitive as possible to touch and other stimuli. Smoking causes blood vessels to contract, depriving these sensitive organs of the strong blood flow they require to perform at their best.
Eat a Healthy Diet
If you’re beginning to sense a theme here, namely a link between a healthy lifestyle and optimal sexual function, you’ve already learned an important lesson. It’s hard to have a full and bountiful sex life if your overall health isn’t in tip-top shape. And needless to say, eating a healthy diet is an important part of maintaining your health.
Because sexual health is so closely linked to good blood flow to your sexual organs, eating a diet that promotes healthy circulation is an absolute must. Of course, one of the side benefits of a sexually healthy diet is its heart-healthy effects.
Eating at least five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables every day is an important part of a healthy diet. To get maximum benefits, don’t focus entirely on green vegetables, but eat the rainbow, trying to incorporate both fruits and vegetables in a wide variety of colors. These plant-based foods are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, and the greater variety of these foods in your diet the more likely you are to be getting the full range of these nutrients.
To get the broadest assortment of healthy nutrients, eat fruits and vegetables of varied colors.
Cut down on your intake of red meats that are high in fat. If you crave some animal foods, focus primarily on fish, chicken, and turkey. And don’t undo the good that these foods can do for you by preparing them in an unhealthy way. Although shrimp, flounder, and chicken might be preferable to most cuts of beef or pork, deep-frying them can do more damage than good.
Lose the Extra Weight
It is widely recognized that carrying around a lot of extra weight — particularly around your midsection — puts an extra strain on your heart and the rest of your body systems. It also drags down your self-esteem, which dampens your interest in sex. If you don’t like the way you look, the odds are that you’ll have difficulty attracting sexual partners. And even if you do, the added burden of extra weight can make it difficult to enjoy as wide an array of sexual positions and to have the stamina required for good sex.
Get Plenty of Sleep
It can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you’re juggling the many demands of life in the 21st century. But you’ve got to make an effort. Getting too little sleep not only takes a toll on your overall health, but it can be a bummer when it comes to your sexual health as well.
Men who consistently fail to get adequate sleep to have an increased incidence of impotence, and women who are sleep deprived may experience sexual response problems, according to Dr. Berman, who specializes in female sexual health.
Dr. Berman explains that beneficial hormones are released during sleep. “If sleep is interrupted by apnea, stress, medication, and so on, that affects brain chemistry as well as mood,” she told EverydayHealth.com.
Steer Clear of Stress
In a column for the Huffington Post, Logan Levkoff, a sexologist, and certified sexuality educator, says that “stress makes your sex life suffer.” Pointing out one of life’s little ironies, she also notes that having sex can help to relieve stress. She pinpoints five ways in which stress has a negative effect on sexual health:
1. Stress can lead to a negative body image. Stress-related hormonal changes can cause a sluggish metabolism, which in turn may lead to weight gain.
2. The increased release of cortisol, a hormone designed to help you deal with stress, interferes with the production of sex hormones and can dampen the sex drive.
3. “Stress makes us question our relationships and our partners.”
4. Stress can lead to excessive drinking, the negative effects of which have already been discussed.
5. Hormonal changes related to stress can interfere with women’s menstrual cycles and fertility.