On Blood Pressure, Health and Sex
With my beloved wife off to Israel for 10 days, I have been called to step in as a guest author, a role for which I am not ideally suited. My last stint as writer, with Cheri as editor, was in another time and place when she wore out red pens on my business school papers. It is from experiences like those that deep-seated fears are formed… However, I feel compelled to provide a man’s perspective as a complement to the sage advice previously dispensed herein.
This past week I had a doctor’s appointment. As is almost always the case, I was told that I had borderline high blood pressure. It seems I suffer from ‘white coat hypertension’ – elevated blood pressure when measured in a clinical environment. My readings are most often normal, but apparently there is something about the diminutive woman in the white lab coat that causes my blood pressure to spike. For those 50ish guys who may read this, no, I was not about to have a full physical.
How, you may ask, does this relate to the varied (and sometimes potentially risqué) musings found in this blog? This morning while “the girls” and I were working out, Dr. Oz was on NBC extolling the virtues of sex for your health. After listening carefully and critically to his medical arguments, and having read “Kosher Sex” in this blog, I felt compelled to research the links between sex and health, followed by seeking out a Jewish confirmation that all of this was somehow OK. (Cheri, how am I doing so far?)
I turned to the New Millenium’s most authoritative resources. No, not Wikipedia or Cosmopolitan. My exhaustive research took me to Forbes magazine (did I mention I have a business degree?) and WebMD, turning up the following arguments for a man to have sex:
- Reduced risk of heart disease: One study shows that those having sex 3 or more times per week reduce their risk of stroke or heart attack by 50%. Just ask Nelson Rockefeller.
- Weight loss, overall fitness: 30 minutes = 85 calories; 21 hours and you lose a pound. You do the math. Sex 3 times a week can work off the equivalent of 3 Big Macs…per year. In addition, increases in testosterone — a by-product of sex — can also help build stronger bones and muscles; sort of like Wonder Bread.
- Improved sense of smell: Post sex production of prolactin causes new neurons to develop in the brain’s olfactory bulb. Those who know me know that I have virtually no sense of smell, so serious effort is required here.
- Pain-relief: During sex, oxytocin surges to five times normal levels, releasing a flood of endorphins. Yes, I have accomplished the same thing by running 10 miles. But seriously?
- Stress reduction and lower blood pressure: According to researchers from Scotland who reported their findings in the journal Biological Psychology, blood pressure responses to stress are lower among those having regular sex. Another study, however, found that women can experience lower blood pressure by receiving a hug. Let’s just skip that one. (Note: Other studies show that a glass of red wine each day can also help improve your blood pressure. It sounds like a winning combination, doesn’t it?)
- Lower prostate cancer risk: Research shows that a higher frequency of sex for males in their 20s may lead to a lower incidence of prostate cancer later in life. (Just make sure you credit me for this line.)
- Improved sleep: The oxytocin mentioned above is correlated with deeper, better sleep. This leads to lower blood pressure, less fatigue, a higher propensity to exercise, lower weight, decreased depression, self actualization, and potentially to peace in the Middle East. The cycle begins.
So do the above arguments hold (holy) water? Aside from the husband’s marital obligations that are well documented elsewhere in this blog (sex, food, clothing in some order), the Torah states “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Ok, that’s the Talmudic softball, one shunned by even the most accommodating of the female breed. The Torah further states that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This one sounds a bit self-serving and maybe like a philanderer’s excuse in divorce court.
Perhaps on safer ground, in Jewish tradition a marriage is formalized by Kiddushin (commonly translated as betrothal). Kiddushin, drawing from the same root word meaning “holy” or “sanctified,” occurs when the woman accepts the marriage contract or sexual relations offered by a prospective husband. This, of course, is the basis for the concept of the consummation of a marriage. The “failure to fulfill marital obligations” is even considered a basis for divorce in both legal and religious venues. Religion not only endorses a practice that can lead to improved health, it requires it.
It’s only a few days into Cheri’s 10-day trip and I’ve realized that I need to pay more attention to my health. Given my level of work-related stress, maybe MUCH more attention. There are just certain religious obligations that a man cannot ignore.