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Low sexual satisfaction linked to memory decline later in life: study

Low sexual satisfaction in middle age could be linked to future memory decline, according to a new study. (SHVETS production/Pexels) Low sexual satisfaction in middle age could be linked to future memory decline, according to a new study. (SHVETS production/Pexels)

Can't get no satisfaction? Then you might be at risk for cognitive inaction.

According to a new study, low sexual satisfaction in middle age could be linked to memory loss later in life.

Led by researchers from Pennsylvania State University, the study tracked 818 men over 12 years, from the ages of 56 to 68. Researchers tested and measured participants' memory and processing speed over time, and found that reported declines in erectile function and sexual satisfaction correlated to future memory loss.

"Research on sexual health has historically focused on quantifiable facets of sexuality like number of sexual partners or frequency of sexual activity," lead author and Penn State doctoral candidate Riki Slayday said in a news release. "What we were interested in is the perception of that activity, how someone feels about their sex life, and how that influences cognitive function, because multiple people could be in the same situation physically but experience completely different levels of satisfaction."

Subjects were followed beginning in middle age, because it represents a period when declines in cognition, sexual satisfaction and erectile function begin to emerge. Researchers say the strong correlation between the three variables point to a general connection between physical and psychological health.

"When we mapped the relationship over time, we found increases or decreases in erectile function and sexual satisfaction were associated with concurrent increases or decreases in cognitive function," Slayday said. "These associations survived adjustment for demographic and health factors, which tells us there is a clear connection between our sex lives and our cognition."

The study was published in the most recent issue of The Gerontologist, a peer-reviewed academic journal. Gerontology refers to the scientific study of aging.

Co-author and Penn State human development and family studies professor Martin Sliwinski says the research also builds on other studies that have found links between life satisfaction and cognitive performance.

"Scientists have found that if you have low satisfaction generally, you are at a higher risk for health problems like dementia, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease and other stress-related issues that can lead to cognitive decline," Sliwinski explained in the news release. "We tell people they should get more exercise and eat better foods. We’re showing that sexual satisfaction also has importance for our health and general quality of life."

Because the relationship between cardiovascular health and erectile function is well-understood, Sliwinski believes doctors should view erectile dysfunction as a warning sign for other health issues, including the risk of future cognitive decline.

"We already have a pill for treating erectile dysfunction," Sliwinski said. "What we don’t have is an effective treatment for memory loss. Instead of the conversation being about treating ED, we should see that as a leading indicator for other health problems and also focus on improving sexual satisfaction and overall well-being, not just treating the symptom." Top Stories

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