A team led by Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, has been looking at data on 12,785 Americans over a 14 year period, relating body mass index (BMI) and waist to hip ratio (WHR) to mortality. To general astonishment they found the highest mortality among those with normal BMI but with a belly almost as wide as, or wider than, their hips. The mortality rate for this group of people with ‘love handles’ was higher even than for those who were actually obese.
I’ve been warning about ‘love handles’ for some time. I call them ‘anti-love handles’ because, as I explained in my book Have Great Sex, they convert a man’s testosterone to oestrogen. If you’re a man and find your sexual performance is waning then take a look at your waistline.
The healthy WHR for women was said to be 0.85 or less, and for men 0.90 or less. I took out a tape measure and was astonished to discover my WHR was 0.94, although I weigh 72kg and stand about 1.8 metres. So I’m exactly the kind of man they’re talking about. I need to get some more muscle onto my buttocks (and the rest of me), and less fat on my waist.
Regular readers will know I abandoned my high intensity training (HIT) for the summer when temperatures were regularly in the thirties out here in Spain. But I continued swimming and took up windsurfing. Not enough. (There’s an awful lot of just standing when you’re windsurfing.)
I’m setting a target of getting that ratio down to below 0.9 by the end of October. I’ll let you know how I get on. If you’d like to join me, click on ‘comments’ at the top of this blog.
The actress Jane Fonda has a new book out called Prime Time and a big chunk of it is devoted to sex for older people. She writes about masturbation, sex toys, Viagra, porn films, hormone replacement and especially testosterone for women who have lost their libido. At 73 Jane is still bonking away. Good for her.
Contrast Jane’s attitude with that of another icon Germaine Greer who, in her book The Change, astonishingly wrote: ‘Some women, the lucky ones, I shall argue, lose interest in sex after the menopause.’ She went on to suggest that many older women might wish to ‘opt out’ if their partners are no longer very virile and take ‘a good deal longer about it’ than they used to. I suspect the difference between Jane and Germaine has to do with love. Germaine had a lot of sex with men she barely knew. When you love someone you think in a different way.
My top advice to older couples is this. Buy an artificial lubricant and use it as a matter of course. If you’ve never used one before, I suggest you buy two or three different kinds and see which you prefer. The advantage of silicone lubricants is that they remain very slippery for a long time. The disadvantage is that they don’t actually feel wet. For that reason I recommend water-based lubricants, which are more natural.
A good, fun tip is to fill an indoor plant sprayer with warm water and keep it by the bed. When the water-based lubricant dries out, refresh it by squirting a little warm water over your genitals.
So the Royal College of Psychiatrists has said that the over 65’s should limit themselves to 1.5 units of alcohol a day, and on the Today programme Emma Soames, Editor-at-Large for Saga Magazine, became almost apoplectic. Eating and drinking were the only pleasures some elderly people had left, she fumed.
I have to take issue with Emma on this. If you let food and alcohol become your only enjoyments then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You won’t be capable of doing anything else.
My friend J is 85 and still sailing, hiking, painting, writing and bonking. He remains muscular and not at all fat. If you’ve got age-related health problems eating and drinking too much can only make things worse. A paunch on a man is the enemy of sex. It causes excess production of the aromatase enzyme which converts testosterone (the ‘male hormone’) to oestrogen (the ‘female hormone’). Alcohol is high in calories, diminishes sexual response and, following years of abuse, can lead to erectile dysfunction in both men and women.
Make sex your number one pleasure. Alcohol hardly compares.
As I was blogging in the Writer’s Life section, I once had to drive 90 minutes to get to work in the morning and 90 minutes to get home again. That was pretty extreme but a lot of people accept two hours of commuting per day as normal. Boomers have mostly given that up, either by downsizing or retiring. If you and your partner are Boomers who no longer have to rush out of the house every weekday morning I suggest you use the time to have sex.
In the first place, the morning is a pretty good time for the older man. It’s when testosterone levels are at their highest. Secondly, in summer in a country like Spain, it’s when the bedroom is at its coolest. Thirdly, it’s a time when you’re unlikely to be disturbed. So you can get into a nice dependable routine. Have cups of tea or coffee in bed, freshen up, and get at it.
Some people object to the idea of sex as a routine. But that doesn’t mean the sex itself has to be routine. It can be as varied as you like. Rather, it just means you both assume you will have daily sex, in the same way that you eat every day. And just as most meals, however enjoyable, follow the standard recipes, and a few are particularly special, with lots of courses and unusual sensations, so it can be with sex.
You used to commute every day, squashed up against people you never even knew. What’s to complain about in being squashed up against someone you love every morning?
My little erection problem the other day (see Women On Top in the Writer’s Life section) has made me reflect on the importance of keeping in good shape for sex. It’s a sad thing, in a way, that how much you enjoy sex depends not on what your partner does to you but on what you’ve been doing to yourself.
If you’ve not looked after yourself then you’re going to find it difficult to reach the outer limits of ecstasy. Just as Daniel Barenboim can’t play a Beethoven sonata on a piano that’s out of tune, so your partner won’t be able to ‘play you’ if you don’t keep your body tuned up.
Fortunately, there are always things you can do to give your body a better chance. Exercise is one of them. In a Gallup survey 45% of respondents said their sex lives improved when they began exercising.
That’s hardly surprising. The tiny blood vessels in your genitals are easily blocked by fatty deposits. Exercise is one way of helping to keep the blood flowing strongly. Another is to keep down the level of saturated fats in your meals. Men should also keep in mind that a paunch is a kind of anti-sex factory, causing a rise in oestrogen, the ‘female’ hormone, and a fall in testosterone, the ‘male’ hormone.
As little as 20-minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week could be all it takes to make the difference between so-so-sex and super-sex.