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Better Sex Now: An Age-by-Age Guide to Sexual Satisfaction and Health

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A healthier, more satisfying sex life -- at any age -- isn't that what we all want? Here, a guide you can start using tonight.

What You Need to Know About Your Sexual Health

The key to getting what you want -- and need -- is knowing your body, and feeling comfortable asking questions if you don't. And that's where too many of us fall short. In a recent Association of Reproductive Health Professionals survey, only 51 percent of women said they felt extremely knowledgeable about their vaginas. Many women don't have all the facts about hormones, libido, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), fertility, or birth control. Here it is -- the latest news. Feel free to share.

What You Need to Know About Your Sexual Health

In your 20s: Your risk of STDs is at an all-time high. Almost half of sexually transmitted diseases occur in people 24 and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Young people tend to have more sexual partners, which exposes them to more bugs," says Hilda Hutcherson, MD, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center and author of Pleasure: A Woman's Guide to Getting the Sex You Want, Need, and Deserve. In your 20s, the cells of your outer cervix are more fragile and susceptible to infection. The two STDs you should be most concerned about: chlamydia and human papillomavirus (HPV). If left untreated, chlamydia can scar your fallopian tubes, causing infertility -- and 75 percent of the time, the disease has no symptoms. Ask your doctor to test you annually. "If you test positive, your partner needs to be screened too, or you'll be reinfected the next time you have unprotected sex," says Sarah de la Torre, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist in Seattle. Treatment consists of a round of antibiotics and a follow-up test three months later.

Get the HPV vaccine, but don't ditch your Pap. And keep using condoms to protect against the virus. The vaccine, given as three shots over six months, is the most significant sexual- health advance in years, but it protects against only 70 percent of all HPV strains that can lead to cervical cancer.

In your 30s: Pay attention to new symptoms. Heavy periods and pain during sex, for instance, can be signs of uterine fibroids, usually benign tumors that affect approximately two in five women in their 30s that can increase the risk of miscarriage. Experts say that fibroids are also the most common reason premenopausal women have hysterectomies -- a drastic, often unnecessary step. "If the fibroids are small, oral contraceptives may alleviate symptoms of pain and bleeding," says Dr. Hutcherson. If they're large, you may need a myomectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the tumors without taking out the healthy tissue in your uterus, or a uterine fibroid embolization (UAE), a treatment that shrinks fibroids by cutting off their blood supply.

In your 40s: Don't put up with hormonal havoc. Many women assume that they just have to ride out symptoms of perimenopause, such as vaginal dryness and urinary incontinence caused by fluctuating estrogen levels, but there a lot you can do to feel better, says Suzanne Trupin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Champaign. For dryness, try a water-based lubricant or an estrogen cream, which is safer than taking the hormone orally since you apply it directly to a small area. And make love often. "Research suggests that women who have sex frequently lubricate more easily," says Sandra Leiblum, PhD, director of the Center for Sexual and Relationship Health at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey, and author of Getting the Sex You Want: A Woman's Guide to Becoming Proud, Passionate, and Pleased in Bed. Try Kegels (exercises in which you tighten and release the vaginal muscles) to help with leakage issues. (Go to kegel-exercises.com for details.) If those don't help, ask your doctor about biofeedback, says Dr. Hutcherson.

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Keith84450 wrote:

I'm in my 70s, where the heck is your help for me? But it can be pretty good even without your help! Maybe us over 50 need to give the younger people some advice since they evidently don't think there is s_x after 49! So youngsters, there is s_x after 50 and 60 and 70, and it can be darn good. Even without the "e", dumb software!

12/10/2013 09:58:38 AM Report Abuse
lh787 wrote:

Well, I didn't die when I turned 50, Chrissakes.

10/24/2013 09:54:08 PM Report Abuse
jeanacali1 wrote:

So, people in their 50s don't have s?x? Lame to leave the story where you did! By the way, when did you word "s?X become inappropriate. People use the "F" bomb ALL the time and the word SE?x is in appropriate? Again, LAME story.

8/28/2013 09:27:21 PM Report Abuse
sckulas2894586 wrote:

Same comment, s_x does not have to stop when you turn 40!

8/28/2013 08:57:15 PM Report Abuse
eshayward wrote:

Plus, comments have to be under 500 characters, but every time I try to correct I have to enter the code again, which means another ad? I'm starting to regret submitting a comment...

6/25/2013 07:57:02 AM Report Abuse

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