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    Peak Performance Sex

    Excerpted from
    Earl Mindell's Peak Performance Bible: How To Look Great Feel Great And Perform Better In The Gym At Work And In Be
    By Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D.

    The same tools that help you perform your best in the gym, on the playing field, and at work will help you lead an active and vibrant sex life. The flip side is that the same downers that sap you of energy and wreak havoc on your body can help destroy your sex life. In order to stay svelte, sexy, and in the game, you need to maintain a supportive life style.

    Sexual problems are quite common from midlife on, in both men and women. About 25 percent of men over fifty have experienced erectile dysfunction (ED), the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient to sustain intercourse. Although women have not been studied as much as men, there is a growing body of evidence that menopause can interfere with libido and sexual function.

    The introduction of Viagra in 1998 with great hype and fanfare has led many people to believe that a pill can solve all sexual problems. Not so! Viagra works for many men, but not all. Remember, Viagra is a performance pill, but it doesn't make you want to perform. That is, it has no effect on loss of libido, a major cause of sexual problems in men and women. In addition, Viagra can be downright dangerous for men with heart conditions (a common cause of ED), and has resulted in more than five hundred deaths, not to mention other untoward side effects, such as headaches and blackouts. And it doesn't seem to work for women. Personally, I feel that Viagra should be treated as a last resort for ED, not the first line of treatment. It needs to be used with great caution. My advice is to try simple, natural things that do not produce a myriad of potentially dangerous side effects first.

    Many of the problems that can dampen your sex life are entirely avoidable. They are due to poor health habits which, over years, damage every vital system within the body. When it comes to sexual function, the best medicine is prevention. Taking care of yourself from your teen years on can make a tremendous difference in your sex life in the following decades. Even if you have already shown signs of slowing down, it's not too late to do something about it. (Supplements mentioned below that are also included in the Hot Hundred are designated by an asterisk.)

    Your Heart and Your Sex Life. About half of all cases of ED are caused by atherosclerosis, die clogging of the arteries delivering blood to the heart and other vital organs. Maintaining normal cholesterol levels (under 200 mg/dl) is one way to protect your heart. It's very important to keep your levels of HDL, or good, cholesterol high. Studies have linked lower HDL to a greater risk of ED. The health of your heart is directly connected to your diet. Watch what you eat! A diet high in saturated fat (from meat and dairy products) can increase the risk of heart disease. (For more information on food, turn to the chapter Peak Performance Nutrition.)

    Your Weight and Your Sex Life. Obesity, especially in men, can interfere with sexual function. Why? Obesity is often linked to other physical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes, which can cause sexual problems. Given the fact that 25 percent of all American adults are obese, we are looking at an epidemic of male sexual dysfunction. Obesity can affect a woman's sex life too. Women who feel that they are unattractive are often reluctant to engage in any activity that involves taking off their clothes!

    Cigarettes Are Killing Your Sex Life! Studies have shown that cigarette smokers are twice as likely to suffer from ED than nonsmokers. Why? Cigarette smoking is a leading cause of atherosclerosis, which reduces the flow of blood throughout the body, including the penis. In all likelihood, smoking can also hamper a woman's ability to become aroused and enjoy sex for the same reason-you need adequate blood flow to the pelvis area for normal sexual function. Ninety percent of heavy smokers will suffer damage to the penile artery.

    Mind Your Hormones. Changing hormone levels from midlife on in both men and women can affect sexual desire and function. About 30 percent of all men past midlife will experience a dip in testosterone levels that could affect sex drive. Women also experience a dramatic drop in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that can also hamper libido and function. Hormone-replacement therapy is becoming popular for both men and women; however, it is not without some risk. Sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone) can stimulate the growth of hormone-sensitive cancers; therefore, I view them as a last resort. Several of the supplements that I recommend in this book can also boost hormone levels, such as DHEA* and I-Boosters*. However, if you take any kind of hormone, natural or otherwise, please do so under a doctor's supervision.

    Alcohol Is A Downer. Although alcohol lowers inhibitions, it can actually hurt your sex life. More than two alcoholic drinks daily can decrease sex drive and lower testosterone levels. Need I say more?

    Stress And Sex Don't Mix. Stress hormones can shut down the production of sex hormones, which is very unsexy. Ironically, many prescription antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs can interfere with sexual function. So, try natural remedies first. If you're stressed out, try to reduce exposure to stressful people and situations. Give yourself a time each day when you turn on the answering machine, turn on some music, put up your feet and relax! Try aromatherapy. The scent of lavender is soothing, and there are absolutely no side effects. Even a twenty-minute stress break can be a lifesaver if you use it to decompress. Supplements such as arctic root or phosphatidylserine can help control stress hormones. Kava is a herb from the South Pacific that is great for relieving anxiety and putting you in a good mood. Take one to two capsules before bedtime. Recognize that stress should be taken seriously, and that you need to make time for yourself.

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