Sex may not be the first thing you bring up at your doctor’s visit, but it is an important part of your overall physical and psychological health. Low sex drive can also identify underlying disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and depression as well as side effects of common medications such as beta blockers, antidepressants, antihistamines, statins and anti-anxiety meds.
Stress effects women in many ways. Symptoms can vary from insomnia, feeling anxious, to being short tempered, or reaching for the nearest box of chocolates. But for some women, it can put a damper on their sex life. In large scale surveys of women conducted around the world, about 30% of women (even those in their teens and twenties) report a lack of sex drive.
Yes…its true. Stress is a real sex-drive downer. When we are stressed, we release Cortisol which competes heavily with our friend Testosterone. What you may not have known is that Cortisol also inhibits the release of pleasure-related neurotransmitters (hormones) such as oxytocin. This hormone makes us feel relaxed and connected to others. Oxytocin is a huge player in sexuality for women.
Other hormones also play a role in sex drive for women such as Estrogen, Testosterone and DHEA. But none as significant as oxytocin. Women who are anxious have lower levels of oxytocin. Women with healthy levels of oxytocin have less worry and fear and accept their partners more for who they are and feel a sense of romantic attachment. In other words…it makes you want to get closer to your partner, and thats when the clothes start coming off!
There are natural ways to release oxytocin. Some examples are hugging, cuddling, soft touch, massage, music, singing, physical exercise, and positive social contacts.
Factors that lower oxytocin include negative stress, fear, anger, drug abuse, drinking excess water, loneliness, and lack of social support.
Once this positive feedback loop starts working between the body and mind, then dopamine gets released which lights up the reward centers of the brain and helps us think of sex as something that we want again.
Some studies have compared brain activity of women with low and high libido. MRI’s of these participants showed that while low libido women tended to judge their emotions, those with healthy libido’s simply experienced their emotions. The problem is that we need to get out of our heads. We need to stop over-thinking and become more mindful and not judge the present moment…just experience it.
Sex not only connects us with our partner and reduces anxiety, but it has been shown to also reduce other symptoms such as headaches, hot flushes, backaches, menstrual cramps, and depression because it releases endorphins that help manage pain.
For some types of extreme anxiety and low libido the solution may be oxytocin supplementation. Not everyone needs oxytocin treatment, but as we age the greater the likelihood is to have oxytocin deficiency. The most commonly used supplementation is in oral or sublingual form. Doses can vary from 2.5-20 international units (IU) daily. This hormone can be prescribed by your doctor and formulated by a compounding pharmacy.
If you are suffering from low libido and want to get your mojo back, its best to work with a functional medical practitioner to get some answers and possible treatment.
Reference: Hertoghe, T. “Passion Sex and Long Life: The Incredible Oxytocin Adventure.” International Medical Books. Jan 2010.
Hanley, K. “Lost Your Appetite For Sex.” WholeLiving.com. May 2010, p. 78-80.
Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women. A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain or a vessel ruptures and bleeds in the brain tissue. Women, unfortunately tend to be at higher risk than men.
Specific risk factors in women include migraine with aura ( primarily visual changes before the migraine), atrial fibrillation (irregular heart beat), obesity, abnormal blood sugars (metabolic syndrome) and high blood pressure. Even depression and emotional stress are added risk factors.
Women are just different.
The risk in women is due to gender and genetics. Our natural hormone cycles, genetic differences in immunity and reproductive factors ( pregnancy or the use of birth control pills) all effect clotting. Women’s differences not only elevates their risk for stroke, but also influences their outcome after a stroke. Not a good statistic considering women live longer than men.
So what can you do?
Consider a low-dose aspirin everyday or every other day especially if you’re 65 and older (unless bleeding is a concern).
Know your numbers..that is your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and BMI (body mass index) and stop smoking.
Consider a carotid intima media thickness test (CIMT). This is an ultrasound of the carotid arteries that measures the thickness of the blood vessels and identifies plaque that could lead to obstruction of the arteries. It can also identify risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Stroke prevention begins early in life by managing risk factors. Start now…
It’s heart health month, so I thought I would talk about some new guidelines based on the effects of diet and exercise in relationship to the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). These are recommendations from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
1. Dietary plans that exemplify the best diet include The DASH (dietary approaches to stop hypertension), the USDA (United States department of agriculture) food plan and the AHA (american heart association) diet. These diets are rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Protein sources include fish, legumes, poultry and low-fat dairy. Vegetable fats and nuts are the recommended fats.
2. Lowering LDL (low density lipoprotein) is achieved best when only 5-6% of calories are from saturated fats and no trans fats.
3. Recommendations for lowering blood pressure include restricting sodium intake to no more than 2400 mg daily and ideally to 1500 mg daily. If you reduce it even further (1000 mg daily) it reduces cardiovascular disease by 30%. The DASH diet is beneficial in lowering blood pressure in many subgroups including men, women , blacks and non-black adults and young and old. DASH diet info is available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/
4. As far as exercise is concerned…three to four 40 minute sessions of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise weekly helps lower cholesterol, blood pressure and heart disease.
Information on the USDA food pattern is http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodPatterns.htm.
Information on the AHA diet is available at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Healthy-Diet-Goals_UCM_310436_SubHomePage.jsp
Reference: Foody, J. “Encouraging a heart-Healthy Lifestyle”, JWatch.org. Dec 15, 2013. p. 195
Medicine is always trying to find the lowest effective dose for medical treatments, and birth control methods are no exception. Birth control pills have come a long way. Risks today are significantly lower than they were decades ago in the era of high dose pills. More research and development have also taken place with IUD’s (intrauterine devices).
IUD’s have been around for a while. The history of IUD’s dates back to the early 1900’s. Since then, IUD’s have evolved to help give women different choices in effective reversible contraception. The invention of the copper IUD took place in the 1960’s and the hormonal IUD came out soon after that.
The Mirena IUD was released in 1976 and is still popular today. It contains 52 mg of levonorgestrel (LNG). Now a new lower dose hormonal IUD is available which releases only 13.5 mg of LNG called Skyla which was launched in February 2013. It is smaller and is effective for 3 years vs the Mirena which is effective for 5 years.
Women have been very happy with this lower dose IUD option. Side effects consist of irregular vaginal bleeding and spotting. Also, IUD’s are 99% effective and very safe. It is important to be in a monogamous relationship and/or use condoms to prevent STI’s since the risk for pelvic inflammatory infections are greater if you have multiple partners. It is a nice option if you are not consistent in remembering to take oral pills the same time daily and want to avoid pregnancy for 3-5 years. IUD’s are completely reversible in that once these devices are removed, ovulation typically begins the next cycle or two.
An additional smaller low-dose hormonal IUD available in Europe and approved for 5 years use is in early trial stages in the U.S. It is estimated to come to market in late 2017.
Reference: Nelson A et al. Two low-dose levonorgestrel intrauterine contraceptive systems: A randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol 2013 Dec; 122:1205.