Dementia diagnoses are on the rise as people generally live longer. Knowing that however, doing all we can to help reduce our risk is vital. Director of Science and Research Impact, Professor James Goodwin (PhD), who is also advisor to the global council on brain health spoke exclusively with Express.co.uk to discuss the impact of sex and dementia risk.
What we know about sex and the brain, in scientific terms, is in its infancy, but it is dynamite, Prof Goodwin began.
“It has implications for conventional public health messaging, preoccupied as it is with tempering sexual activity because of concerns about promiscuity, sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancies.
“Throughout history, sex has defied all worthy-minded attempts to suppress it – because our need for sex is buried deep in the brain.
“It is a primordial drive cemented into place by millions of years of evolution.”
Prof Goodwin went onto explain how animal studies showed key differences when it came to familiar and unfamiliar sexual partners.
“If the two rats became familiar and experienced more frequent sexual contact, then the association with neurogenesis was more pronounced, rather like a ‘dose’ effect,” he explained.
“Further, older male rats benefited more than younger rats, i.e. the increase in their rate of neurogenesis was greater.
“Stress levels in these encounters was reduced.”
He added that in other experiments, sexually responsive male rats, compared to their non-sexually responsive counterparts, benefited cognitively from mating with a female showed a measured improvement in memory performance.
Prof Goodwin cited data by Dr Allan, Hayley Wright and Rebecca Jenks from the English Longitudinal Study on Ageing.
“But they went further and looked not only at memory but also at mathematical performance, as a measure of higher executive function.
“They took data from an equally large sample, some 6,800 adults, aged 50–89 years.
“Across the whole sample, sexually active men and women were found to have significantly higher scores on both the maths and recall tests than sexually inactive men and women.”
Prof Goodwin concludes that regular sex can help reduce your risk of dementia.
He stresses the importance of interaction with others being vital to brain health with recent research showing that it extends to sexual activity.
“Regular sex with a close partner has been shown to improve brain health, including memory, maths skills, language ability and visual skills.”
Studies highlight another key aspect of finding a familiar partner and experiencing more frequent sexual contact being key.
Regardless, practicing safe sex is vital for one’s overall health and disease risk reduction.