You Can (and Should) Have More & Better Sex with Every Decade: How Great Sex Can BE Your Fountain of Youth

Guest blog by Genie James, M. M.Sc.,
Executive: Director of the Natural Hormone Institute
Author of From Hormone Hell to Hormone Well: Straight Talk Women (and Men) Need to Know to Save Their Sanity, Health, and―Quite Possibly―Their Lives

The best present you can give to the man you love is a renewed interest in your sex life.

National surveys report that more than 40 million American adults live in low-sex, no-sex relationships and forty-three percent of women say they suffer from some kind of sexual inadequacy due to lack of desire or loss of pleasure. When asked about the issue, most women and men fondly remember their randy and sexually robust 20's but then, as the decades roll by, mistakenly resign themselves to an increasingly infrequent and lackluster sex life. Age, stress and fatigue are common excuses. And, as pounds pack on and breasts and buns begin to droop, the thought of getting naked is more likely to spawn a full-blown anxiety attack than a ready and primed sexual engine. 

The real reason your sex drive is in the toilet: "It's not your age, your stress or that your body has some road miles on it --Honey, it's your hormones!" So what's a gal or guy supposed to do? Here are a medically-proven, all-natural and wallet-friendly three step plan to boost those lagging hormones and turn back your sexual clock no matter your age. 

In Your 30's
Signs that your hormone production is starting to slack off: You would rather fold an extra load of laundry than have sex in the morning. In addition to a dip in your sex drive- if you can no longer fit into your skinny jeans, you don't have the energy you used to, you are suffering from post-partum depression and/or you are irritable and snapping at your children or husband, -your body is waving red flags that it is missing its much needed progesterone.
Solution: 1.) Start using an over-the-counter bioidentical progesterone cream, 2.) eat foods shown to help restore the balance between estrogen and progesterone levels (such as cruciferous veggies, citrus fruits, flax seed/flax seed oil and whole grains) and 3.) get off your buns and move for at least 30-40 minutes five or more days a week.

In Your 40's
Signs that your production of more than one hormone has shifted: You feel that having sex once a month, vs. three to four times a week, means you are still healthily 'sexually active'. Other signs of an underlying hormone level imbalance can include: you are wearing jeans with elastic in the back or you have resigned yourself to giving away those great clothes now 2-3 sizes too small, you can't sleep through the night, you are burning up with hot flashes and you believe you are either chronically depressed or suffering from early Alzheimer's or both. 
Solution: 1.) if an over-the-counter bioidentical progesterone cream is not doing the trick, try adding an over-the-counter bioidentical estrogen (estriol) product to your daily regimen, 2.) Eat more phytoestrogen-rich foods such as soy (soy beans, soy milk, miso, edamame and tofu) and, also, try some centuries-old herbal aphrodisiacs and orgasm enhancers such as L-arginine, ginkgo or horny goat weed, 3.) Turn up the heat on your work outs: vigorous exercise for 45 min- 1hr at least five days a week (Remember: what is good for your heart is good for your genitals).

In Your 50's, 60's and Beyond
If you have not had a period for more than one year, you are officially a menopausal mama. This is the time of life that, when your husband wakes you up wanting a little action, you might be tempted to hand him a $100 bill and tell him to go buy a sheep. The biochemical reality is that you have not fallen out-of-love, your body is truly out-of-hormones. Progesterone production has slipped to almost zero, estrogen levels are in the toilet and odds are that your testosterone production has shifted from a regular flow to an erratic dribble.

You now need a full-court press approach to rejuvenating your hormone health and restoring your sex life. 
Solution: 1.) Try adding a herbal testosterone booster (such as Peruvian gingseng or nettle root) to your over-the-counter bioidentical progesterone and estrogen regimen. If your symptoms persist, it may now be time for you to see a physician who can analyze your hormone levels, determine your specific hormone deficiencies and, then, prescribe for you an individualized dosing of bioidentical hormones, 2.) To increase testosterone levels and restore your sexual urge through your daily diet, eat more foods rich in essential fatty acids and L-arginine (flaxseeds, nuts, dark leafy green veggies and oily fish like salmon or mackerel), zinc (liver, oysters, whole grains), and 3.) Start weight lifting. Research shows that an exercise program that works your large muscle groups such as squats, dead-lifts, bench presses and rows increase testosterone levels.

SEX-tra Benefits: More Sex Can Be Your Fountain of Youth
Medical research and clinical studies show that more sex can:
-Give you a better body: sex is a calorie-burning, body-toning exercise.
- Improve heart health: a half hour of steamy sex can increase your pulse rate and get your heart pumping as if you have just run a mile or two.
- Reduce stress and lower blood pressure: people who have more sex stay calmer even under duress. 
- Make you a nicer person: sex releases a hormone called oxytocin that has been shown to cause people to act in more kind and loving ways.

7 Ways to Feel Sexy Again after Breast Cancer

Guest blog by Gina Maisano
Author of  Intimacy After Breast Cancer: Dealing with Your Body, Relationships and Sex

While the medical community has succeeded in helping more women survive for 15, 20, 30 years and longer after breast cancer, few experts have focused on the sexual health and well-being of women survivors.

The good news is that you can rediscover the sensual woman you were before your battle with this disease. Here are eight places to start:

Get your bod back. If you weren't in shape before your diagnosis, now is the time to lose the extra weight you put on after chemo. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, high fiber foods, and lean proteins. Avoid white flour, sugar, hydrogenated fat, high-sodium snacks, chemically processed foods, and fatty muscle meats. Do a minimum of 3-5 hours of exercise per week, get back to your healthy weight, and reduce your fat intake to 30 grams per day -- all of which can reduce your risk of recurrence. 

Be kind to the "new girls." Regardless of what kind of surgery you had, you feel a sense of loss and a disconnect with your new body. One way to get through the grief is to make the best of your new breasts and get the look you want: whether by asking the surgeon to fill in divots, massaging scars with vitamin E oil, using silicone scar patches, finding the right prostheses and bras, or having your new nipples and areolas tattooed to match your old ones. 

Locate your e-zone. Your surgeon took away a good portion of skin and nerve endings, but not all. When your surgery was completed, a lot of your erogenous zone was simply lifted higher -- now you just have to find it again. Lying on your back, with the eraser of a new pencil, slowly move it around your collarbone, neck, breasts, and chest until you feel a familiar sensation -- your old erogenous zone! Locate all these pleasure spots. Later, you can show your partner.

Get your mojo back. Having little or no desire for sex is both physical and psychological. Take an inventory of all the medications you're on that have the side effect of low libido -- including SRRI antidepressants, tranquilizers, pain meds, cold and allergy medicines, and NSAIDs -- and try to find alternatives. Seek help for post-traumatic stress. Do kegel exercises to limber up your vaginal muscles, and find crèmes to help with vaginal dryness. All of these practical steps will help get your body and mind ready for lovemaking.

Play with toys. Have fun with your own sexuality. Life's too short and precious to be uptight about what's going to make you feel better. Sex toys are no longer taboo, and are available in perfectly respectable shops, or easily ordered from the Internet or through a catalog. If you use these toys a minimum of three times a week, you can increase your libido, and learn about your new body. 

Project confidence. If you feel insecure or like damaged goods, it will emanate from you like a dense fog. Every morning, look in the mirror and tell yourself you're beautiful -- it may be cliché, but it works. Invest in beautiful lingerie that makes you feel sexy under your clothes. Take time to put on some makeup. Purchase a new outfit that's a striking design or color, and own it when you wear it. Stand up straight, and look people in the eyes. You beat cancer. You should be incredibly impressed with yourself -- others will be too.

Communicate with your partner. The moment of truth arrives and you're ready to make love again. Just because your doctor gave you the go-ahead to have sex doesn't mean your partner is ready. Talk about what you want to do with him, and what you feel comfortable showing him right now. Ask him what he feels comfortable seeing. At first, you might want to wear one of his oversized button-down shirts, which keeps your breasts covered but is oh so sexy to him.z

No Surrender Breast Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of women with breast cancer. 

Start Now To Cut Next Year's Tax Bill

Guest blog by  Grace W. Weinstein
Author of The Procrastinator's Guide to Taxes Made Easy

It's too late to do much about your 2003 tax bill - although a contribution can be made to an Individual Retirement Account for 2003 right up to the day you file your income tax return for the year - but it's none too early to start thinking about 2004. Planning early can produce big savings.

Here are a half dozen money-saving tips:

1. Adjust your withholding to reflect the tax you'll actually owe. The goal is to come out even, or close to even, at the end of the year. Don't under-withhold or underestimate, or you'll owe Uncle Sam a nondeductible penalty. But don't over-withhold either. Some folks deliberately have too much taken out of their pay so that they'll receive a refund, but over-withholding means that you lose the use of your money while giving an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam. If you use withholding to discipline yourself to save, sign up for automatic saving or investing and have money transferred directly to a bank or mutual fund.

2. If your deductions exceed the standard deduction - $9,500 for a married couple filing jointly in the 2003 tax year - itemize deductions by listing them on Schedule A with Form 1040. Be sure to do the arithmetic. The government points out that 500,000 taxpayers overpaid their taxes, by an average of $600 apiece, by claiming the standard deduction when they could have itemized. For many of these taxpayers, mortgage interest alone exceeded the standard deduction.

3. Close to the edge? If you usually take the standard deduction, consider "bunching" deductions in alternate years so that you can take advantage of itemized deductions. To bunch your deductions, make annual charitable contributions in January and December of one year, then skip the following calendar year. In the year you double up your charitable donations, prepay January mortgage interest and first-quarter property taxes in December. 

4. Consider consolidating personal debt into a home equity loan or line of credit to make the interest deductible and - very likely - lower your interest rate. Just don't put your home on the line unless you're confident that you can repay the loan on schedule.

5. Contribute as much as you can to tax-sheltered retirement plans. For 2004 the ceiling on IRA contributions is $3,000 plus $500 if you are age 50 or more. The ceiling on employer-sponsored 401(k) and 403(b) retirement plans is $13,000 plus catch-up contributions of $3,000. In all of these plans, earnings aren't taxed until you take the money out. In employer-sponsored plans, you may also benefit from employer matching contributions.

6. If you have children or grandchildren, take advantage of one or more of these education tax incentives:
a) The Coverdell Education Savings Account lets you put away up to $2,000 per child per year in a tax-deferred account. 
b) The interest on U.S. Savings Bonds is tax-free if the proceeds are used for tuition and fees and if your income is under specified limits in the year the bonds are redeemed.
c) Qualified Tuition Plans ("529 plans") provide tax-free savings when the money is used for college tuition, fees, books or room and board. Contributions are not tax-deductible on your federal tax return but some states offer tax breaks to residents. 
d) Meet income limitations and you can deduct tuition and fees of up to $4,000 in 2004. This deduction is available even if you don't itemize other deductions.
e) Up to $2,500 in interest on college loans may be deducted, whether or not you itemize deductions, if you meet income limitations.
f) Meet income ceilings and claim the Hope scholarship credit for $1,500 in tax credits, per student per year, for the first two years of college.
g) The Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2,000 a year is per-family, not per-student.

Income ceilings are a moving target. And, since Congress made the rules regarding each tax break, those rules are complicated.