Exercising and eating a healthy diet are often recommended for preventing dementia, but now a new study has found another lifestyle choice that may help prevent the disease: sex.
For the study, people over the age of 50 were found to have sharper mental functioning if they were sexually active. The results from the study suggest that there may be surprising health benefits to sex for seniors.
Researchers from Coventry University quizzed 6,800 people between the ages of 50 and 89. In the quiz, participants were tested on their memory and problem-solving skills. The quiz included word tests, in which participants had to recall words that had been used five minutes earlier. There were also pattern tests, in which participants had to figure out the missing number in a sequence or pattern.
The results of the study found that people who were sexually active scored higher on the tests. The findings suggest that being sexually active can have positive effects on memory and problem-solving.
The researchers believe these results could lead to sex being an important therapeutic tool for elderly people, claiming that the “findings have implications for the promotion of sexual counseling in healthcare settings, where maintaining a healthy sex life in older age could be instrumental in improving cognitive function and well-being.”
Sex had a bigger effect on the cognitive performance of men. Men who were sexually active scored 23% higher on the word tests and three percent higher on the number tests compared to men who were not sexually active. For women, those who were sexually active scored 14% higher on the word tests and two percent higher on the number test compared to their peers.
It is believed that these cognitive benefits may be due to the hormones released during sex. During sex, “feel good” hormones like oxytocin and dopamine are released. These hormones can also help promote learning and memory.
The researchers also believe that sex may encourage other healthy lifestyle choices, researchers suggest that sex “makes people feel good so it encourages them to be more positive about life and more likely to eat well and pursue other healthy activities like Pilates or line-dancing.”
Dementia is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., and one in three seniors die while suffering from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects an estimated 5.3 million Americans. Dementia is a progressive brain disease that causes memory loss, slowed thinking, and other cognitive problems. There are no known cures, and all forms of dementia are eventually fatal.
While there are no known cures, studies have shown that many lifestyle changes can help lower a person’s risk of dementia. Previous studies have found that dancing and taking B vitamins lower the risk of developing dementia.
With the results from this new study, older people who are worried about dementia now have a good reason to remain sexually active as well.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Wright, H., et al., “Sex on the brain! Associations between sexual activity and cognitive function in older age,” Age and Ageing, 2016; doi: 10.1093/ageing/afv197, last accessed February 17, 2016.
“2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures,” Alzheimer’s Association, http://www.alz.org/facts/.