By Janice Graham
As you hit one of those big birthdays, you probably worry more about new
wrinkles than about less visible body parts — like your heart. But recent
research has found that each decade of your life is a crossroads, with new
health concerns to worry about. What's more, you need to be aware of these
issues — because your doctor may not be. "Many physicians fail to recognize how
much a woman's risk factors for heart disease evolve over her lifetime," says
"I always thought my husband and I would be making love until we were 90. But I just turned 39 and my libido is nowhere to be found."
If these sexual issues sound familiar, you're clearly not alone. Experts say that a lack of interest in making love -- even with partners we adore in many other ways -- is not as unusual as we might think.
"A disappearing sex drive is a common problem -- sometimes in women as young as her 30's -- and while it hasn't reached epidemic proportions yet, I think we're only seeing a small portion of the women who are affected," says Rebecca Amaru, MD, a gynecologist at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
Indeed, in one global study of sexual problems published recently in the Journal of Impotence Research, up to 43% of women expressed a loss of sexual desire, beginning as young as age 40. Similarly, up to 36% of women who were having sex reported they weren't enjoying it.
Understanding Your Sex Drive - Or Lack of It
For some women, low sex drive or even the inability to have sex is linked to specific problems. According to renowned sex therapist NYU professor Virginia Sadock, MD, this can include illness, medications, or sometimes even a specific physical problem related to intercourse.
"It can also be the result of hormonal changes that begin in the 40's. A lack of lubrication, for example, makes sex less comfortable and over time that can dampen desire," says Christiane Northrup, MD, author of The Wisdom of Menopause (Hay House).
When low sex drive is health-related, experts say, the solution is easy.
"For some women all it takes is a little dab of either lubricant or estrogen cream on the clitoral area. You can't believe how many women suffer, not realizing how easy this problem is to solve," says Northrup.