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Can Good Sex Keep You Young?


WebMD Feature

Nov. 13, 2000 -- When I asked my 77-year-old friend Peter Kranz of Darien, Conn., about his sex life, he was immediately forthcoming. "We make love twice a day," he said.

"You do this every day?" I asked.

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"The schedule is not written in stone," Peter explained. "But we do make love every day."

Michael Roizen, MD, would say that sex is keeping Kranz young. In his best-selling book, RealAge -- Are You as Young as You Can Be?, Roizen makes the case for the antiaging effects of sex after surveying the available literature. "Having sex at least twice a week can make your RealAge 1.6 years younger than if you had sex only once a week," Roizen says. He defines 'real age' as "an estimation of your age in biologic terms, not chronologic years."

Although Roizen's statistics are sketchy, he derives his figures primarily from a study done in Caerphilly, Wales, and published in the December 1997 British Medical Journal under the title, "Sex and Death: Are They Related?" One of the few efforts to examine the relationship between sex and mortality, the study found that men who reported at least two orgasms a week at the time of the study had less than half the risk of dying from various causes over 10 years of follow-up than those with a lower frequency of orgasm. Drawing on the researchers' remark that the evidence suggested a dose-response relationship -- meaning in this case that the more orgasms a man had, the longer he lived -- Roizen concluded that someone like my friend Peter, who has sex every day, could have a Real Age as much as 8 years younger.

At first blush (and Peter's candor did make me blush), my friend is a convincing example of Roizen's argument. He is youthful-looking, energetic, and actively involved in many interests. Peter still works as a developer of computer systems. He has had a steady, positive relationship with his wife who, at 77 also, still commutes to Manhattan for her own job at a major nonprofit institution.

But although Peter enjoys his sexual interludes immensely, he also does many other things to remain youthful. He watches his weight and caloric intake very closely and makes sure he stays slim. Over the last decades, he has been involved in strenuous earth and rock-moving activities in his own backyard; and he also splits wood when it is needed. He has exercised steadily and intensely over the years.

So does sex itself really extend our lives or prevent heart attacks? This claim is difficult to prove. Yes, sex and good health are usually linked -- in most of the studies and our observations -- but which one is the chicken and which the egg? Does sex contribute to good health or does good health make regular sex possible?

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