You already knew that getting intimate with your significant other can strengthen your relationship. But did you know that sex has many health benefits too? Here's a look at some of the unexpected health boosts:
1. Heart Disease
Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, health professionals jump at any measure to reduce risk. When looking for ways to lower your own risk, you can add regular sex to your list.
In one study by the New England Research Institute, researchers looked at data from a 16-year period for men ages 40-70 years old. Interestingly, the researchers found that men who had sex twice per week decreased their risk of heart disease by a staggering 50 percent.
Why does sex lower the risk? First, it provides a great form of moderate exercise, burning around 70-100 calories per half hour. You can compare it to climbing stairs or power walking, an intensity that even most stable heart disease patients can handle.
In addition, sex also reduces stress, anxiety, and frustration, even in the midst of a stressful schedule. Without it, you may get more irritable and take on more work, thus increasing the strain on your body.
Another great reason to enjoy intimacy more often is that it actually boosts your immune system. In one study of over 100 college students, researchers studied the students’ sexual habits.
They found that the ones who had sex 1-2 times per week actually had a 30 percent increase in their IgA levels, an antibody important to protecting against outside foreign substances. With these antibodies ramped up through sexual activity, you’ll actually find yourself getting sick less often.
At the same time, regular sex boosts immunity in women, leading to increased fertility even if they have sex outside of the fertile window. According to the research, this immunity results from increases in Type 1 and 2 T-cells in the body. These T-cells guard against illness and prevent the immune system from attacking a forming embryo, keeping women both healthy and fertile.
3. Pain Relief
Next, you can also use sex as a natural pain reliever. When the University of Munster surveyed 1,000 headache patients, they concluded that many migraine patients could use sex to relieve or eliminate the pain. Of the ones who had migraine attacks during sex, 60 percent reported that the intimacy relieved their headache pain.
Migraines are not the only pain that sex relieves either. Many women find relief from menstrual cramps when they experience an orgasm. During regular daily activity, the uterus is relaxed and subject to any pain inflicted by the menstrual cramps. However, during an orgasm, the uterus contracts while releasing endorphins, providing temporary pain relief.
Overall, sex gives people a feeling of euphoria, releasing endorphins along with dopamine and other hormones. The pleasure hormone, dopamine, might take your mind off any pain in itself. However, sex also releases those lovely endorphins that naturally ebb the feeling of pain.
4. Better Sleep
You might notice that you often fall asleep after sex, and there are several reasons that this phenomenon happens.
First, researchers have observed that the hormone prolactin increases during sleep and causes drowsiness in animals. This same hormone increases during sex as well.
At the same time, experts conclude that the release of oxytocin reduces stress levels, and its accompanying melatonin signals the body for a time of rest. Physically, the act of sex can simply make you tired as well, and you likely push away anxiety and stress in order to obtain an orgasm. These factors all contribute to a feeling of sleepiness once the intimacy concludes.
While the physical exercise and immunity boost can protect anyone from cancer, research shows that sex decreases men’s risk of prostate cancer. Researchers from the National Cancer Institute discovered that men who are highly sexually active get the most benefit. The experts reason that the act helps to keep things moving in the prostate, eliminating harmful substances that could turn into cancer later on.
There has also been some controversy over the benefit of sex to prevent breast cancer in women. Either way, intimacy can have positive health effects that can prevent from many illnesses, including cancer.
In addition to these health benefits, sex can give you better sleep and help you de-stress during stressful periods in your life. Instead of putting off the intimacy until a later date, make room for it throughout your week, and you’ll reap the benefits of better health along with your strengthened relationship.
This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.