Sexual dysfunction linked to metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women

Decreased sexual activity, desire and satisfaction are associated with metabolic syndrome in older women, according to study findings published in The American Journal of Medicine.

“In these healthy community-dwelling older women, the prevalence of low sexual desire was significantly higher in women who met the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome,” Susan Trompeter, MD, clinical professor in the department of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System, said in a press release. “In addition, we observed a higher prevalence of dysfunction by [Female Sexual Function Index] criteria in desire, arousal, orgasm and satisfaction, comparing sexually active women with metabolic syndrome to those without.”

Susan Trompeter

Susan Trompeter

Trompeter, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD, of the division of epidemiology, department of family medicine and public health, University of California, San Diego, and colleagues evaluated data from the Rancho Bernardo study on 376 postmenopausal women (mean baseline age, 73 years) who completed a clinic visit between 1999 and 2002 and returned the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) mailed in 2002.

The questionnaire evaluated female sexual function through 19-items. Metabolic syndrome was defined as meeting at least three of the five following criteria: impaired glucose tolerance; waist circumference greater than 88 cm; triglycerides 150 mg/dL or greater; HDL cholesterol less than 50 mg/dL; and systolic blood pressure of at least 130 mm Hg or diastolic BP of at least 85 mm Hg, or a diagnosis of hypertension or current antihypertensive medication use.

Elizabeth Barrett-Connor

Elizabeth Barrett-Connor

Overall, 42% of participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome: 23% met three of five criteria, 14% met four criteria and 5% met five criteria.

About 39% of participants reported sexual activity within the past 4 weeks, and sexual activity was linked to older age and living with a spouse or partner. Twenty-three percent of participants reported sexual desire, and 78% reported sexual satisfaction. A decrease in sexual activity and sexual desire was linked to older age and number of years since menopause.

More participants who were sexually inactive (48.3%) met the criteria for metabolic syndrome compared with 31.1% of sexually active participants (P = .001). Compared with about one-quarter of participants reporting sexual desire, nearly half (45.6%) of participants reporting no sexual desire met the criteria for metabolic syndrome (P = .008).

Compared with participants without metabolic syndrome, participants with metabolic syndrome had lower sexual desire (P = .0401) and lower arousal (P = .0086) scores, individually and combined (P = .0047). Reported orgasm frequency was lower (P = .0427), and the prevalence of orgasm dysfunction (P = .0134) was higher among participants with metabolic syndrome.

“Overlapping pathways affecting sexual function in women are complex and still poorly understood; however, both physiological and psychological variables contribute to sexual activity and function,” Trompeter said in the release. “Prevention of chronic disease and optimization of health may preserve sexual activity and satisfaction.” – by Amber Cox

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