A woman's satisfaction with her sex life appears to have very little to do with the health of her heart and circulation, according to a new analysis of data from the Women's Health Initiative.
"In women this particular aspect of sexual function, which is decreased sexual satisfaction, did not predict cardiovascular disease," Dr Jennifer S. McCall-Hosenfeld, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health.
In men, erectile dysfunction is a red flag for undiagnosed heart disease, McCall-Hosenfeld of Boston University Medical Centre and her colleagues note in the American Journal of Medicine. Given that the same mechanism regulates pelvic blood flow in both men and women, they write, it is conceivable that sexual problems in women could also be a marker for poor heart health.
To investigate, the researchers analysed data from 46,525 women 50 to 79 years old who were participating in the WHI study and who were sexually active. Seventy-seven percent said they were satisfied with the sexual activity they engaged in.
Sexual dissatisfaction not linked to health
Over the 7.8-year follow-up period, there was no association between sexual dissatisfaction and the risk of having a heart attack or stroke, or developing high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, chest pain, or heart failure.
However, the women who had reported being unsatisfied with their sex life were slightly, but significantly, more likely at the study's outset to have peripheral arterial disease, or poor circulation in their legs and feet. "It's hard to know what to make of that in the context of largely otherwise negative findings," McCall-Hosenfeld said.
However, the findings do make it clear that easily measurable aspects of women's sexual function are probably not markers for cardiovascular health as they are in men, she added.
"It may simply be that women and men are just different," the researcher said. "It may be that vascular function just doesn't play that big a role in sexual satisfaction." – (Anne Harding/Reuters Health)
SOURCE: American Journal of Medicine, April 2008.