How Do Our Bodies Respond Differently To Sex As We Age?

Question: How do our bodies respond differently to sex as we age?

Answer: Aging certainly creates some changes in our bodies and our sexual response. And this is going to be true for men and women. First of all, our drive changes. Drive is that biologic urge to be sexual that we're all sort of born with and we're certainly born with a certain level.

Some of us might, in our 20s, want to be sexual on a daily basis. And as we age, this sort of changes a little bit and maybe by the time we're in our 40s, it's once a week. This is a normal and expected change.

It's also very helpful if we understand that change so that we don't look to the change as something reflective in our relationships as opposed to really being a biologic issue.

Also in terms of our sexual response there are some changes. For example, we know that with men and aging, erectile function starts to decline a little bit. And I know this is pretty pessimistic thinking, but the reality is that by age 40, about 40 percent of men will start to experience at least some minimal forms of erectile dysfunction, and by age 70, it's up to about 67 percent.

Certainly, chronic illnesses, diabetes, cardiovascular disease will contribute to that, so maintaining a healthy lifestyle can certainly avoid some of these problems. Now for women, the aging changes really reflect changes in vaginal health. For example, with estrogen decline that comes with menopause, the vagina becomes thin and drier and, therefore, sexual response will be more uncomfortable, perhaps a little bit painful.

And certainly, the other thing that we know of is as testosterone levels decline with age in both men and women, the interest in being sexual can decline for both -- not go away completely, just decline some.

So there are many changes that can reflect the concept of a physical change. But that's not to discount the fact that as we age, some benefits may occur as well. Sometimes taking our time can actually promote happiness in a relationship, and couples that had relied on basic physiologic arousal, now have to actually talk to each other in bed. And sometimes that can be a benefit.