The Sexy Factor

03/28/2008 02:47 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Healthy, lusty sex is wonderful.

- John Wayne

Let's begin with a visualization exercise. I want you to picture someone who personifies sexiness. Is it yourself, your partner, a peer, or is it someone younger -- perhaps Angelina Jolie or Jude Law? Unfortunately, sex appeal is often reserved for the younger generation and many people over forty-five have a hard time deeming themselves sex symbols. Sure, you have the exceptions. I can't imagine Sofia Lauren has issues with her allure or George Clooney has a hard time finding roles that accentuate his good looks. But for the rest of us, who live everyday lives in reality, it's hard to feel desirable and sexual after a certain age.

There are legitimate, physical reasons for this sexual flip-flop. They are called hormones. Those once-upon-a-time motives for wanting sex all the time go on to become our reasons for not wanting it or having it at all. So what happened from then to now? The simple answer to this complex question is age.

The year 2005 welcomed the first of 80 million baby boomers to their sixtieth decade. This generation is now surpassing the previously set life spans and subsequently both men and women are experiencing unprecedented symptoms of the aging process. One of these symptoms is sexual dysfunction. Both men and women experience hormonal shifts and declines and these age-related imbalances make a mockery out of their sex drives.

Lost and Found: Recover Your Sex Drive After 40

The natural decline of hormones plays a substantial role in the fall of female desire. Menopause takes place when the ovarian production of hormones drops precipitously and signals an abrupt cessation of monthly periods. The libido wanes, the vagina dries up, and blood flow to, and sensation in, the genital area decreases. Without adequate supplies of estrogen and progesterone, women feel depressed and depression is never a good segue in to sex. Testosterone also declines and women at the age of 40 have only half the amount of testosterone that they had when they were in their twenties. In my practice I often see women in their 30s who have lost all free testosterone, the active form

Both bioidentical (hormones that look and act like human-made hormones) estrogen and testosterone supplementation enhance the integrity of the vaginal wall and increase the amount of lubrication during sex. Testosterone awakens the sleeping sexual hunger and enhances feelings of sensuality and well-being. Recent and ongoing studies featured in both medical and psychiatric journals have illustrated time and time again that testosterone supplementation enhances sexual desire and, perhaps most importantly, gratification. It has been likened to a kind of "female Viagra." In my practice, I have found that testosterone is central to female sexual function. A low level, regardless of love or stimulation, is a deathblow to libido.

Women are not alone in the hormonal decline department. Men also experience a falling off of hormone levels. It may be a slow decline, but some men feel it like a ton of bricks. In my practice, I have found that most men over forty suffer from low levels of testosterone, a condition called andropause, or male menopause. Because testosterone receptors are found all over the body, including the heart and brain, a decline may be linked to many age-related symptoms like muscle weakness, bone loss, memory complications, weight gain and heart disease. As far as quality of life is concerned, men suffer from mood swings, fatigue and sexual dysfunction in the absence of normal-to-high levels of testosterone.

I have found that testosterone supplementation improves many sexual issues in men. It restores confidence in and out of the bedroom, bolsters energy levels, and enhances sex drive. Research has shown that testosterone replacement in men can improve erections, sexual thoughts and motivation, and sexual fulfillment. The common prescriptions advertised for erectile dysfunction usually only help with the erections, while testosterone replacement does this, as well as enhances mood, interest, and overall satisfaction.

Sexuality Is Ageless

The French author, George Sand once said, "It is a mistake to regard age as a downhill grade toward dissolution. The reverse is true. As one grows older, one climbs with surprising strides." With the boomers striding full force into their sixth decade, all stereotypes are out the window. Sexual prowess at any age is a real possibility and quite frankly, most people are demanding it. Through hormone therapy, life style improvements, and attitude adjustments, women and men are reaching new heights in sexuality at later ages. In doing so, they are finding that remaining sexual keeps them young, revitalized, and alive. Their menopause or andropause experience is not like their mother's or father's. Instead it is an exciting and sensual journey.

Now, getting back to that exercise at the beginning of this article--close your eyes again and visualize someone with sex appeal. If it's not you, now is the time to make it so, because although we can learn from the younger generation about sex appeal, it stands to reason that they can learn a thing or two from us about experience.