Sex After 40

By: Dr. Stacey Naito – Physician and IFBB Pro

The Shifting Tide

Those of you about to turn the corner and enter the 40 and over zone may be concerned about the impact that getting older will have on your sex life. You may have questions about whether you must resign yourself to becoming a dried-up old lady, with no fun to be had in the bedroom. Thankfully, the reality is that you can have more fulfilling and enjoyable sex than you had in your 20’s or 30’s.

What’s more, society has gotten wind of the idea that people want to live completely fulfilled lives into their advanced years. It’s true that 40 has become the new 20, and the concept is supported by empowered celebrities like J. Lo proclaiming their eternal youth and sexual vitality without shame. So instead of allowing the aging process to shut you down, it’s time to look forward to a new and more sexually fulfilling chapter in your life.

Why Getting Older Is Great For Your Sex Life

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t trade the knowledge and life experience I obtained over my 52 years on the planet to return to my 20’s, because aging has positively impacted every aspect of my life, including what happens behind closed doors. With age comes acceptance of who we are, body flaws and all. Let’s face it, we accumulate stretch marks, cellulite, scars, etc. over time, all of which could send us into a meltdown if we stressed out about them. We have become more comfortable with who we are, which translates to greater body confidence. That body confidence works to our advantage in the bedroom, because we no longer feel uneasy or ashamed of how we look sans clothing. When we are comfortable naked, we can finally relax and enjoy intimate encounters to the fullest.

A woman in her 40’s or 50’s is less likely to take desperate measures to entice her man, such as dressing up in sexy but uncomfortable lingerie, or wearing a pair of high heels guaranteed to aggravate her plantar fasciitis or her bad back. In contrast, it seems there are plenty of women in younger age brackets who follow ridiculous wardrobe guidelines to garner the attention of potential sex partners or followers on social media channels. A woman in her 40’s of beyond doesn’t have the inclination to make a fool out of herself to guarantee a romp in the bedroom. She is older, wiser, and doesn’t have time for such nonsense. She doesn’t feel like she needs to try so hard to win her partner’s favor. Her attitude tends to be more along the lines of, “This is what I got, take it or leave it.” Besides, I am willing to bet that such an attitude is far sexier to a man these days. In addition, most men tend to be more excited about the notion of getting you naked, and once you are in the buff, they aren’t scrutinizing your body for flaws.

Older women are also less selfish in bed, and bolder about declaring what they want. They know their bodies, their likes and dislikes. If single, they are more discerning about how they procure partners, so they are less likely to engage in risky activities which expose them to sexually transmitted diseases. For older women in a relationship, there is a greater likelihood that they have been with the same partner for many years, and have developed a level of intimacy which only comes from a longer term committed relationship. A 40-something woman is usually confident enough to turn to her partner and say, “I really like it when you use your hands on me more”, and not fret about whether her partner will accept her sexual preferences.

Chances are that for older women, there are far fewer household distractions which can impede the natural progression of an afternoon of flirting into a full-blown lovemaking session. Such interludes are pretty much impossible if a baby is crying, or young children are demanding attention. Once children have become old enough to be relatively independent, say from pre-teens on, there may be more opportunities to roll around in the sheets with your partner without any interruptions. That kind of freedom can result in more spontaneous sexual encounters and greater satisfaction.

For those past menopause, Aunt Flo’s monthly visit no longer interferes with any amorous advances. Furthermore, there is no concern about getting pregnant and having an unplanned family addition. It’s incredibly liberating.

Sexual Issues and Aging

Though I have painted a rosy picture of the sex life of older women, there are some issues which can interfere with optimal sexual activity. However, this doesn’t mean that all women over 40 will experience sexual dysfunction. As geriatric psychiatrist and Caring.com senior editor Ken Robbins states, “Impaired sexuality and sexual function aren’t normal consequences of aging.” (https://www.caring.com/articles/sexless-after-40).

Women can experience symptoms of perimenopause as early as 35, and the diminishing estrogen and progesterone levels can result in vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal mucosa, both of which can make intercourse painful. If this occurs, make sure to obtain a pelvic exam with a physician who can diagnose and treat the condition. In many cases, a lubricant is sufficient, but hormone replacement therapy may be offered as an option as well.

Some women may experience a decrease in sexual desire as they age, but many others experience a surge in libido from the increased testosterone to estrogen ratio, which increases as estrogen levels continue to diminish. The sexual benefits of testosterone are also enhanced by regular weight training, which naturally boosts testosterone levels in the body. However, the ebb and flow of sexual desire often fluctuates more in women over the age of 40, a result of associated dips and surges in hormonal levels. In addition, the hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings associated with plummeting progesterone levels don’t exactly make a woman feel amorous.

If you are a woman over 40 who is experiencing symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, and they are frequent enough to disrupt your daily life, seek the advice of a physician. During your visit, you may ask if the addition of hormonal support supplements like maca or dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) would be helpful in decreasing the symptoms you are experiencing.
Most importantly, reduce stress in your daily life, get plenty of rest, and communicate with your partner about any sexual concerns you may have.

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Macafem Video Review on YouTube

Please check out my review of Macafem which was shot in 2015. Macafem is a supplement designed to address the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause (hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, etc.). I have not been approached, paid, or otherwise encouraged by the makers of Macafem to put a review together. This video is merely my unbiased review of the product from my personal experience taking it.

I am still taking Macafem, and my symptoms of night sweats and hot flashes have pretty much subsided. I also lost all the water weight I was carrying while I went through menopause.

Progesterone and Stress

We all know that constant stress can play havoc with our health and well being. In this post I will focus on the effects of excessive stress on progesterone levels.

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and in the placentas of pregnant women. It has a calming effect, is a natural diuretic, regulates menstrual cycles, and prepares the body for conception and pregnancy. Some women can experience excessive levels of progesterone, which usually produces symptoms of PMS, but in general, progesterone is a vital and beneficial hormone.

Let’s examine what happens to progesterone if you are a woman under constant and chronic stress. When the body is pummeled with endless stress, the adrenal glands simply cannot keep up with the demand for more cortisol, so they convert more pregnenolone into cortisol to make up for the deficit. However, this has devastating effects on progesterone levels, since progesterone is also synthesized from pregnenolone. Basically, a woman who deals with excessive amounts of stress not only overtaxes her adrenal glands, but progesterone concentration also drops to a precipitously low level. So that calming, diuretic effect of progesterone falls away, and menstrual cycles become erratic or periods cease altogether. Sounds like fun, huh?

I cam tell you that running on an empty tank of progesterone is no fun at all. You retain water, you get irritable and cranky, and you lose your ability to navigate calmly through stressful situations. If you depend on a regular menstrual cycle as a reassurance that all is right with the world, then living with the mystery of whether or when you might have a period can be maddening. I found out during perimenopause that I actually WANTED a period, and I thought I would never feel that way.

I began retaining water like crazy after attaining IFBB Pro Status last July, and I knew something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel like I was in my own body, as strange as it sounds. I began flailing, and went through a rebound which was disturbing and unexpected. My emotional barometer was all over the place, and I couldn’t get out of the funk that I was in. Gaining eight pounds (which is considerable for me), most of which was water weight, made me even more depressed.

Another completely irritating set of symptoms which suddenly popped up at the end of January 2015, and which persisted every single night is that I would wake up at around 4 a.m., completely drenched in sweat and with a sensation which could best be described as being lit on fire from the inside. I would throw the covers off and quickly disrobe, then rather quickly fall asleep, only to awaken about 30 minutes later, shivering and pulling the covers over me.

The nightmare finally subsided to a great extent once I began replenishing my body with bioidentical progesterone in late February 2015. Though I still retained a bit of water for several months, my weight returned to a reasonable 120 pounds, versus the 125 I had been at in the Fall of 2014, my hot and cold episodes subsided, I felt much calmer, and more like myself. Now that I have been on bioidentical progesterone for two years, I have maintained balance and feel infinitely better.

Had I removed the stressors that I had some control over, I am firmly convinced I would not have bottomed out with my progesterone levels like I did. Even if I had engaged in meditation more regularly a couple of years ago, I think I could have saved my progesterone levels from bottoming out. Trust me when I say that progesterone depletion can be incredibly disruptive and upsetting. And don’t think for a second that this is only a problem which women past the age of 45 deal with. I have come across female patients as young as 32 who had almost no progesterone in their lab tests.

If you do one thing to improve your health, please reduce your stress! You can do this by removing the stressors that you have some control over, performing breathing exercises, tai chi, yoga, and meditation, enjoy time with friends, loved ones and pets more often, and letting go of anxiety and worry.

Waves In My Hair

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From the time I was an infant, I always had very straight hair, and like many girls with straight locks, I always longed for waves. My desire for beachy waves was so pronounced that I spent my twenties and thirties habitually swirling my hair into an up-do with a clip while it dried in hopes that waves would form and remain there. However, because my hair is so thick and heavy, the sheer heft would uncoil my attempt at making soft curls, leaving me with the straight hair my DNA locked me into.

My hair became even thicker after I began competing in 2009. While many other women my age were lamenting the loss of their locks, I experienced such a surge in fullness that for about a year, I shaved the nape of my neck to lessen the mass of hair I had. A lot of it had to do with the increased protein intake (up to 180 grams a day at one point) which I had to incorporate into my regimen while I prepped for competitions. My hair also grew much more rapidly, and in 2010, my hair grew ten inches in eleven months. How do I know this? Because the area I had shaven grew a full eleven inches in that span of time, and the overall length of my hair kept me visiting my hairstylist for trims every six weeks.

Then I entered peri-menopause. What a joyous time, when a commercial can send you into a fit of tears, layering clothing becomes essential because of the hot flashes and night sweats, and your skin decides that it no longer wants to fight against the pull of gravity. About a year after I began sailing on the rocky seas of menopause, I had a haircut by an amazing stylist who remains my regular stylist to this day.

By some very odd coincidence, I noticed a pronounced wave throughout my hair when I washed my hair several days later. I thought perhaps I hadn’t washed out the styling products completely, but my hair began to look wavier and wavier with every subsequent wash. This persisted for over a year, and continued to perplex and annoy me. I went from never styling my hair, to developing a blow-drying and flat-ironing regimen which I still haven’t perfected, even to this day.

The rogue waves in my hair don’t seem to have rhyme or reason either. The waves on the right side of my head which frame my face are much wavier than on the left side, and for whatever bizarre reason, the right side is resistant to my efforts to obliterate the kinks with a flat-iron, even if I treat small sections and repeatedly iron the sections.

The sudden nature of the change in my hair texture was alarming. I remember hearing women tell tales, which I figured were tall tales, about how the texture of their hair changed overnight. And here I experienced the exact thing.

While hormones play a large role in hair texture (thyroid, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone), it can be rather strange to wake up with waves you never had, or to go from uber-curly hair to arrow straight hair overnight. It’s like the hormone fairy has a special hair wand which she uses to transform a woman’s strands like magic. The other funny thing is that hair follicles may return to their original state after a few years. My hair is starting to calm down somewhat, and there are times when my hair will be almost arrow straight after drying naturally.

I love the theory which Jonathan Torch, the founder of Toronto’s Curly Hair Institute, has devised. He maintains that changes in the tone of the muscles at the base of the hair follicles are the culprits in hair texture changes over time.

All I know is that my hair seems to have a mind of its own now!

Yes You Are Shrinking

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Have you ever noticed that people tend to shrink as they get older? This phenomenon is pretty much unavoidable, but at least we can take steps to minimize the amount of height loss over time.

On a personal note, I hit 5 feet, 5-1/2 inches at my tallest when I was 17, and remained there until I reached the age of 40. Then I noticed a loss of 1/4 inch, putting me at 5 feet, 5-1/4 inches. By the time I began competing in NPC bodybuilding events, I was at 5 feet, 5 inches. Now, at the age of 49, I stand at 5 feet, 4-1/2 inches. Though I will never be as short as my 4 foot 8 inch Japanese grandmother was, I am definitely losing height as I get older.

Numerous research studies have demonstrated that the process of shrinking stature begins as early as our 30’s, with men losing about an inch between the ages of 30 and 70, and women losing twice that amount. The shrinkage continues into our 70’s and 80’s too. There are a number of reasons why we lose height over time:

1. Cartilage which cushions the joints begins to compress and wear down, and in weight-bearing joints like the spine, hips, knees and ankles, results in a loss of stature.
2. The ratio of bone formation versus bone absorption decreases, and the bones become more weak. In women, the loss of estrogen after menopause further decreases the rate of bone formation.
3. Over time, muscle mass gradually decreases, a process known as sarcopenia. This results in a decrease in postural strength and stability.

How can we minimize the rate of shrinkage in height as we age? Here are some guidelines to follow:

– Perform weight-bearing exercise at least three days per week.
– Consume foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.
– Sit up straight!
– Quit smoking.
– Avoid excessive intake of alcohol and caffeine.
– Don’t starve yourself or practice perpetual dieting.

When you visit your primary care provider for your annual checkup, make sure that your height is measured. If you avoid regular checkups, get into the habit of checking your height once a year, either on your birthday or at the beginning of the year so that you have a standard time of year to measure it. According to numerous studies, a loss of 1 to 2 inches within a year correlates with a higher risk of hip and non-vertebral fractures, and should be investigated by a physician.

Egg Protein Got Me Lean

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The ravages of competition prep and impending menopause caused me to hold water in my midsection and hamstrings for over a year, and I became despondent and desperate as a result. Nothing seemed to work. Then I took an ALCAT food intolerance test in January of 2015 and discovered that I had an intolerance to a bunch of different foods, so I eliminated the majority of them.

However, I stubbornly kept whey protein in, and chose to ignore the fact that I had a moderate intolerance to it. I would have been fine if I had just consumed whey protein a couple of times per week, but I was ingesting 60-70 grams of whey protein every single day. What kept me in that vicious cycle was an incredibly busy schedule which made it difficult for me to get all of my protein from whole foods.

In late September, upon Ian Lauer’s strong suggestion, I decided to finally eliminate whey protein powder from my diet. I added more animal protein from whole food sources (mostly from MAW Nutrition), and replaced about 25 grams of whey powder with a serving of Muscle Egg. Two weeks later, the water retention issues I had been struggling with completely vanished. I could finally see the lateral borders of my rectus abdominis clearly, and no longer created a fluid ripple when I tapped my belly.

I’m not saying I am ripped as a result of switching to egg protein, but boy, did it make a difference in my level of leanness! This won’t work for everyone though. If you have an issue with egg protein, the opposite effect may occur. In my case, I discovered that my body processes egg protein quite well. I also became a huge fan of Muscle Egg and now have it in my house at all times. I generally limit myself to one serving of Muscle Egg per day, but I also love the occasional nighttime Muscle Egg crepe with Walden Farms Chocolate Syrup on top for a sweet treat.

One last thing about whey protein: I still consume it on occasion. However, I only eat it in B-Up Bars and P28 Products, and I don’t have any issue with these food items. I have, however, completely avoided whey protein powder for the time being, and hope that my body resets as a result.