It's hard out there in the dating world. We all have lists of qualities we'd like to find in potential mates -- a good sense of humor, kind to children and animals, gainfully employed, and willing to do housework, just to name a few. We hope to find someone with the same values and long-term goals. And of course, we'd like to meet someone we're sexually compatible with; we all have certain traits that push our buttons or serve as deal breakers. That's an awful lot to keep track of, but it turns out there's one more thing we should all consider adding to our mating wish list: a good cholesterol count. Of course, we all want our partners to be healthy, but there's also a selfish reason to care -- cholesterol can affect your sex life. In this article, we'll consider five reasons you may want to ask for a doctor's note before hopping into bed with someone new.
Cholesterol gets a bad rap, but we can't live without a certain level of cholesterol because it aids in our bodies' development. Cholesterol played a part in your sex life long before you had one, most likely. That's because it's integral to the development of sex hormones. In women, cholesterol aids in the production of estrogen and progesterone, and in men, it spurs creation of testosterone. Without these hormones, we'd never cultivate certain physical traits associated with gender, like breasts for females or increased body hair for males. These hormones are also essential for reproduction, so if you're using sex for procreation, you owe a good deal to cholesterol.
Let's say you're a man, ready for some romantic time with your special someone. The mood lighting's set and you're feeling amorous, but horror of horrors -- you're having a hard time getting an erection. While erectile dysfunction has a variety of culprits, including stress, fatigue, certain prescription drugs and prostate problems, you may have high cholesterol to blame. Too much cholesterol clogs your arteries and restricts blood flow. Restricted blood flow is bad news for your penis because getting an erection depends on blood traveling to your nether region and accumulating there. If you're experiencing a problem maintaining an erection, see your doctor. One of the first things the doctor is likely to check is your cholesterol count, which means you may only need to make some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine to get back in the groove.
Just as high cholesterol can affect a man's erection, it can also affect a woman's ability to get aroused. It's no news to a woman that carrying a few extra pounds can make you less inclined to take off all of your clothes in front of another person. But it's not just insecurity that may be driving such a feeling. Extra weight raises your cholesterol count, and just as it does for guys, cholesterol can build up in your arteries and make it difficult for blood to reach your pelvic region. That makes it hard for a woman to get aroused and lubricated prior to sexual intercourse, and there's nothing like painful sex to get you out of the mood. Using a lubricant won't completely solve a woman's sexual problems, either. Some of those clogged arteries lead to the clitoris, making an orgasm or any kind of pleasurable sensation almost impossible. Again, check with your doctor to be sure that cholesterol, and not some other underlying medical condition, is to blame.
Many prescription drugs have the unfortunate side effect of lowering libido. It's possible that certain statins, or medications that inhibit cholesterol production, belong in this group. In a 2009 study funded by the U.S. government, researchers found that some statins caused changes in sexual pleasure; as the cholesterol count went down, the quality of sex did, too. The effect tended to be more significant for men than for women.
For many people, statins are life-saving drugs, and refusing to take them isn't an option. However, it's possible that switching to a different type of statin may restore sexual satisfaction. It's usually up to the patients to mention the change in their sex lives, though, so if you feel that things aren't as fun as before, talk to your doctor. And take heart -- it's not all bad news where statins and sex are concerned. For some people, sexual function improves on statins because more blood is getting to the genitals.
In 2009, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) tried to show a commercial during the Super Bowl that declared, "Vegetarians Have Better Sex." The ad was deemed too racy to air, but the advocacy group may have been on to something. When Lynn Fischer wrote her book "The Better Sex Diet," she praised a mostly vegetarian diet as a way to keep maximum blood flowing to the genitals.
Vegetarians and vegans tend to have lower cholesterol levels than people who eat meat, as animal products are loaded with cholesterol-raising saturated fats. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule -- a vegetarian who tends to take his vegetables fried won't be much better off than a person who enjoys steak every once in a while. But doctors and sex therapists agree that you are what you eat, and a healthy diet will help keep your sex life healthy as well.