Harvard Health Letter

Pill-free ways to improve your sex life

Exercise, smoking cessation, and alcohol moderation can help bring sexual activity back into the bedroom.

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. And it's fun. So why aren't we having more of it? "There are many reasons why sexual activity can diminish in older age, but many sexual problems can be overcome with appropriate interventions, especially if the problems are relatively new," says Dr. Jan Shifren, co-author of the Harvard Special Health Report Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond.

What changes?

For men, an enlarged prostate can result in difficulty attaining and sustaining an erection. For women, the lack of estrogen after menopause causes the vaginal lining to become thinner; there's less vaginal elasticity, muscle tone, and lubrication; and arousal takes longer. Women may experience decreased libido (a lack of interest in sex), difficulty with lubrication, pain with penetration, and difficulty climaxing.

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