Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Lack of sex affects the heart

If your doctor asks about your sex life, take it as a good sign that he or she is exploring all avenues to check up on your heart and general health.

The latest report from the ongoing Massachusetts Male Aging Study suggests that, for men, having sex once a month or less can be a worrisome sign of cardiovascular disease, even in men who have normal erections (American Journal of Cardiology, Jan. 15, 2010). The researchers recommend that doctors ask their male patients about sexual activity as a possible window into hidden cardiovascular disease.

The connection between sexual activity and heart disease is murkier in women. In the national Women's Health Initiative, dissatisfaction with sexual activity (a shaky stand-in for problems of female sexual function) was linked to the development of peripheral artery disease, but not to heart attack, coronary artery disease, or other cardiovascular conditions.

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