Anytime your mates start talking about sex life, you blush, but this must not happen, as depicting your sexual activity could help doctors save your life.
It may sound trivial, but problems in the bedroom can reflect severe medical conditions, and minimizing sexual impairment means ignoring red flags of early indicators for heart failure, diabetes, depression or other heavy conditions.
"Sex is a legitimate part of medicine, but it has largely been kept separate from the rest of medicine," said Dr. Rosemary Basson, the paper's lead author, from the British Columbia Center for Sexual Medicine in Vancouver.
The team investigated many medical databases about sexual dysfunctions and their link to heart failure, diabetes, depression, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's.
"If a man comes in with erectile dysfunction, it can be the tip of the iceberg," said Dr. Andrew McCullough, a sexual health expert at New York University Medical Center.
Current medicine encourages doctors to investigate patients' sex lives, through basic questions about sex partner(s), sex frequency and potentially risky behavior.
"People aren't going to volunteer that kind of information unless they're specifically asked," said Dr. Jonathan Zenilman, chief of the infectious diseases division at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Men with erectile dysfunction (impotence), the most common sexual impairment in older men, present an increased risk of heart disease.
Detecting sexual impairments in women is more difficult.
"Women don't have as obvious a physical signal for sexual problems as men," said Basson.
Usually, a woman's low libido signals a depression in up to 26 % of cases.
Sexual problems in women reveal hormonal impairment, kidney failure, diabetes, or other chronic diseases.
Employing sexual problems as early detection of severe health issues would lead to more efficient treatments.
"The first manifestation of early diabetes could be erectile dysfunction," said Zenilman.
"It may not be what men want to hear, but if it's caught early enough, you can still do something about it."
Depression is often carried on for years without any treatment.
"If astute clinicians were able to make the connection between lack of sexual desire with psychiatric conditions such as depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome, patients could be offered treatment earlier", said Zenilman.
The prospect of better sex life can be a high motivation for many people to lead healthier lives, if other reasons do not work.
"Sex can be used as a great carrot for people," said McCullough.
"People will be more willing to make lifestyle modifications to improve their health if they think they'll also get improved sex."
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