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The Vascular System and Sexual Function

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I’s an old joke: an elderly man sitting on a park bench becomes aroused by the sight of a beautiful young woman walking by. He faints, clutching his hand to his heart, because the woman is simply too stimulating!

While we like to laugh at seemingly ridiculous situations like these, the truth is that degeneration of the vascular system can have a huge impact on sexual function - for both men AND women. Because older individuals tend to have more heart problems, they also tend to be the people effected by sexual dysfunction.

The three most common problems associated with heart disease are high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels, eventually causing a heart attack). Sexual intercourse is a cardiovascular activity that requires increased blood circulation, shortened breath, and joint and muscle strength. It’s no wonder the two are connected!

If you suffer from any of the conditions listed above, there are several things you can do to maximize your capacity for intimacy with your partner. First of all, try to keep your encounters relatively conventional. Having sex with new partners in new locations can be very hazardous to your health, as it can cause a spike in blood pressure.

Many people are prescribed medications to manage their high blood pressure. If you find that you experience a decreased ability to produce vaginal lubricant, talk to your doctor about switching to a different type of medication or simply reducing your dosage. You can also use a water-based personal lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly, during sex to treat this problem.

If you normally experience angina (chest pain) during intercourse, consider treating it in much the same way as exercise. Use a coronary dilator before sexual encounters and take your time making love. Of course, if you’ve recently experienced a heart attack or undergone a coronary bypass, you may need to take part in physical therapy before resuming normal sexual activity.

Personal preference will dictate which positions are the most comfortable for you. Biologically, there is no position that is necessarily better for the heart than the rest.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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