Some causes of sexual dysfunction

Many of us are dissatisfied with our sex lives. If you have sexual concerns or simply want to improve your sex life, you are not alone. Typical sexual complaints include low libido for men and women, erectile difficulties and premature ejaculation for men, and vaginal dryness or pain during intercourse and difficulty reaching orgasm for women.

And although the causes of these problems vary widely, here are a few of the most common.

Neurotransmitter imbalance

Neurotransmitters are involved in communicating messages from one part of the body to another. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy and well balanced. However, it also happens to interfere with sexual drive and response. Anything that causes our serotonin levels to rise above normal has the potential, therefore, to negatively impact sexual fitness. For example, a common type of antidepressant known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI, (brand names include Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil) works to increase serotonin levels in the brain. This makes many people suffering from depression feel better, but unfortunately a very common side effect is loss of libido.

Dopamine, on the other hand, is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in sexual motivation and reward. Activities that serve to boost dopamine levels, such as consuming plenty of folic acid, may therefore actually help to enhance your sex drive. Getting a massage or enjoying a great workout are just two ways to increase endorphins, neurotransmitters that deliver pleasure signals to your body and prime you for sexual activity.

Low hormone levels

As our bodies age, a series of biological, genetic, and lifestyle related changes occur, all of which can affect our energy levels and overall health. Sex is no exception. As we reach our forties and fifties, our bodies slow down their production of sex hormones, chemicals in our bodies that play a critical role in making sex happen. Women experience a dramatic drop in hormone levels as a result of reaching menopause, which can have a significant impact on sexual health. Testosterone levels plunge.

A lack of testosterone can lead to a lack of desire for sexual activity: Studies show that many women experience a loss of libido during menopause. An 80 to 90 percent decrease in estrogen levels commonly leads to thinning and drying of the vaginal walls, making intercourse painful for some women. In addition, loss of estrogen results in a drop in endorphins, which may make it more difficult for women to enjoy sexual activity. The combined effects of estrogen and testosterone loss can leave many mature women saying, "No thanks, I'm not interested" because sex does not offer enough pleasure for them anymore.

The loss of testosterone happens more gradually for men, but it can still affect their sexual fitness. Men who are testosterone deficient may demonstrate a lack of interest in sex, low frequency of sexual activity and fantasy, and difficulty ejaculating. Aside from aging, low hormone levels can result from poor nutrition, lack of exercise, stress, and other factors. In order for you to maintain healthy hormone levels, it's important that you focus on all these aspects of your life.

Cardiovascular disease

Our bodies don't work as well for sex when we're not leading a healthy, active lifestyle. Specifically, poor cardiovascular health can have a direct impact on sexual functioning. Cholesterol, which can quickly accumulate with a high-fat diet and lack of exercise, builds up in the blood vessels, clogging them and inhibiting proper circulation. When blood has trouble flowing through the delicate arteries of the body, it can't reach the sex organs in adequate amounts. For men, poor cardiovascular health leads to a very noticeable sexual problem: erectile dysfunction. More than 50 percent of men over the age of seventy have some trouble getting or maintaining erections.