Taking Care of Your Body and Mind
By Dr. Tiger
The summer season often gets us back in touch with our bodies. We see it more because warmer weather means fewer clothes. We feel it more because we tend to be more active. We criticize it more because we discover the things we want it to do, but that it does not always do, at least not as well as we might like it to.
For those of you who are able-bodied, exercise is a great boon. Those who exercise tend to feel less depressed, as exercise may relieve depression. For couples who exercise together, they get the benefit of raised testosterone levels for about an hour after exercise. Along with hormonal increase comes an extra sense of sexual interest. Anyone who has made progress getting into shape knows the extra confidence that comes along with that new-found confidence: better sex does happen with greater physical confidence; less anxiety makes for better sexual response.
For those of you who are less able-bodied, pursuing intimacy and having sex includes some concerns about overall physical health. Is your heart healthy enough for the exertion required for the kind of sex you want to have? If your heart feels like it is beating out of your chest after sex, it is very hard to catch your breath, or if you feel that laying down makes it harder to breathe than standing up, watching your heart health and consulting with your doctor about being healthy enough for sex is important. This is truly what the erectile dysfunction commercials mean when they warn about being healthy enough for sex. It may be that your sexual practices, just like your dance steps, may need to be less athletic than they once were to compensate for the changes that come along with aging.
Many medications can interfere with sex. Heart medications, antidepressants and prostate drugs all have been shown to get in the way of good sexual function. In men, this is about erectile dysfunction, and in women, it may be about decreased levels of arousal and orgasmic potential. Any medication or disease process that is associated with peripheral neuropathy (tingling or numbness in the extremities, usually hands and feet) can also cause decreased sensitivity in the genitals. This is true for people living with diabetes and also those who are treated with HIV medications. Anyone who has had radiation as part of cancer treatment, especially to the pelvic region, is also at risk for decreased sexual functioning.
With all the health and wellness information in mind, where does the mind-body connection really speak to sex and intimacy? Romance, sexual excitement and interest, whether exaggerated and unrealistic or not, can fuel our desires, thus making it an encounter we will remember for the rest of our lives. Summer was made for romance, no matter what our age.
What is happening between our ears; our thoughts and feelings, our fantasies, hopes and desires, can directly influence our experience of our bodies, especially in the feeling of our sexual experiences. Too often, people want to believe what they are feeling. Therefore, the love and intensity they felt must have been real or it would not have felt like that. New romance is not the love it seems, no matter how earth shattering a first encounter may have felt. As fun and “right” as new romance can feel, we have to remember that it is only fantasy; reality comes some time later.
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