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It's safe to say that being sexually active has its fair share of benefits. It helps lower your blood pressure, boosts your immune system, improves heart health, and the list goes on. But what about the effects of sexual activity on your brain? We know that it helps with hormonal balance and causes your brain to light up like a dopamine-fueled Christmas tree, but what you may not know is that staying sexually active as you age can work wonders for short-term memory.
As we age our joints begin to ache, we have to start watching what we eat more closely, and we start forgetting things. Anyone who has ever walked into a room only to forget what they entered it for is familiar with the fact of memory decline. It doesn't necessarily have to be that way though. A study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior spanning two years and involving just over 6,000 people (all of which were couples) had some interesting findings involving levels of sexual activity and memory.
All members of the study were over the age of 50; this is a milestone age and ages above it are more closely associated with a gradual mental decline than anything below. The study began by analyzing various aspects of the participants' lives: overall health, dietary habits, sexual activity, and the intensity of emotional connection between partners. The members of the study were then subjected to tests looking into their episodic memory (recalling specific events).
After two years passed the participants were called back to look at the same aspects of their lives and undergo the same episodic memory test. Researchers found that all of the participants' memories had declined but that those were more sexually active in the two year gap experienced significantly less decline and were more intensely connected on an emotional level with their partner. These results go along in perfect agreement with prior studies conducted on non-human animals.
So what of long-term memory?
Unfortunately, there were no improvements in long-term memory. This isn't to say that there are no methods of improving your overall memory; there are actually several ways to do so. What it does mean is that doing the dirty isn't going to help your ability to recall things in the long run. Issues with long-term memory typically stem from the buildup of a protein known as beta-amyloid; think of this being like plaque building up in your arteries. With all of the magic it can work, not even sex can act as a cure-all for that plaque buildup. This brings up one last interesting question: if sex doesn't improve your long-term memory, why does it improve your short-term memory?
This is an area of much speculation and we can't say with 100 percent certainty what the answer is but we have some interesting ideas on the subject. The two main schools of thought reason that sexual activity either boosts brain cell growth in areas associated with memory or that our short-term memory improves simply because of the "afterglow" we get. By afterglow they are referring to being pumped full of dopamine and oxytocin, two of the body's "feel good" hormones.
No matter what side of the fence you fall on, we can all agree that sex is good for the brain and for the rest of the body overall. It might not prevent Alzheimer's Disease but normal memory loss can present itself as a scary phenomenon all on it's own. If you're over the age of 50 and needed an excuse to give your partner, this would be a great one.