Sexuality and Physical Changes With Aging (cont.)
Use It or Lose It: Staying Sexual
Just as exercise is the key to maintaining fitness and health, having sex on a regular basis is the best way to maintain sexual capacity.
And just as it's never too late to start an exercise program, it's never too late to start having sex. Many older people who have been celibate for years develop satisfying sexual practices within new loving relationships. For others, self-stimulation (masturbation) is common and poses no health risks or side effects.
You may have sexual changes as you get older. But some changes may be the first sign of a medical problem. So talk with your doctor about any changes that concern you. He or she may be able to recommend treatments that will help you.
Here are some additional considerations:
- To enhance sexual response, use more foreplay and direct contact with sexual organs.
- The mind is an erogenous zone. Fantasy and imagination help arouse some people. Try setting the mood with candlelight and soft music, or whatever else "turns you on."
- Many medications, especially high blood pressure medications, tranquilizers, and some heart medications, inhibit sexual response. Ask your doctor about these side effects. Your doctor may be able to reduce your dosage or prescribe different medications. Do not stop taking prescription medications without consulting your doctor first.
- Colostomies, mastectomies, and other procedures that involve changes in physical appearance need not put an end to sexual pleasure. Communicating openly about your fears and expectations can bring you and your partner closer together and help you overcome barriers. If necessary, a little counseling for both of you can help you adjust.
- People who have heart conditions can enjoy full, satisfying sex lives. Most doctors recommend that you abstain from sex for only a brief time following a heart attack. If you have angina, ask your doctor about taking nitroglycerin before you have sex. Do not take Viagra if you are using nitroglycerin.
- If arthritis keeps you from enjoying sex, experiment with different positions. Try placing cushions under your hips. Also try home treatment for arthritis pain. For more information, see the topic Osteoarthritis.
- Use a water-based vaginal lubricant, such as Astroglide or K-Y Jelly, to reduce vaginal dryness or irritation. Do not use petroleum jelly. A doctor can also prescribe a vaginal cream containing estrogen, which will help reverse the changes in the vaginal tissues.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation. Small amounts of alcohol may heighten your sexual responsiveness by squelching your inhibitions. Larger amounts of alcohol may actually decrease your sexual performance.
- Prescription medications that can enhance the sexual response are available. Some people find that herbs such as ginkgo biloba and ginseng enhance their sexual function. Both prescription drugs and herbal remedies carry the risk of side effects.