Is This Crucial Activity Missing From Your Wellness Regimen?

Photo: Guille Faingold

Eat your vegetables and fruits, get seven to nine hours of sleep, don’t smoke, walk 30 minutes a day, stand more, stress less, be more mindful. It can be quite an undertaking to arrange and maintain a schedule that promotes health and longevity. And interestingly, the one activity you may not be placing high enough on your "must-do" list is the one that brings you the most pleasure of all: sex.

There's a wealth of medical data indicating that intercourse and orgasm not only maintain the lineage of our species, but they maintain our health in the years after childbearing. Here are five benefits of sex that are completely science-based:

1. Reduced heart attack risk.

None other than the Harvard Health Letter declared that "Sex is important to health. It revs up metabolism and may boost the immune system. Frequent sexual intercourse is associated with reduced heart attack risk." If this is true, doctors might want to start writing "more sex" on a prescription pad for preventive care visits.

2. Increased longevity.

In a research project called the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, there was nearly a 50 percent increased risk of developing heart disease in men who had sex once a month or less compared with the group that had two or more weekly sessions, which would translate to about 100 times a year. In another study, over 900 men in Wales were followed for 10 years; the risk of dying was reduced 50 percent in those with high orgasm frequency versus low. If a participant had eight sexual episodes monthly, the death rate was reduced by 36 percent, but the more sex participants had, the more the death rate dropped. This is called a dose-response curve, and very few "more traditional" medical therapies can boast lifesaving numbers like these.

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3. Lower homocysteine levels.

In a recently published research analysis, frequency of sexual activity corresponded with better cognitive function in older adults. Memory, executive function, and verbal fluency were all better with more frequent sex in males and females. In another study just published, sexual frequency in over 2,000 men and women was inversely correlated to the blood concentration of an amino acid adverse to heart health called homocysteine. The frequency with which the person engaged in sex, the lower and more favorable their homocysteine levels were.

4. Increased testosterone.

Higher testosterone levels are associated with longevity, and one theory for males is that testosterone levels increase during intercourse with a partner, not necessarily during masturbation. Unfortunately, less medical data is available on the role of sexual frequency in female health (which is something we'd all like to see change!), but there is plenty of reason to believe the advantages are much the same.

5. Reduced risk of prostate cancer.

A study analyzed by Harvard researchers correlated the frequency of ejaculation with prostate health. They discovered that the lowest rates of prostate cancer were found in those who ejaculated often—specifically, more than 21 times a month.

Clearly, one of the best paths to health is to view sex as healthy and a health-promoting activity. Schedule it on your calendar along with trips to the farmers market and the gym. When Marvin Gaye sang "Sexual Healing," he was right on the mark.

Here's how much real couples are actually having sex.

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