by Dr. Jeff B. Brown (www.jeffreybrownmd.com/)
As an African American internist, author, and patient educator, I’m on a mission to help people to take charge of their health. I’ve seen firsthand how many people here in America lack knowledge about key health matters. These facts can not only inform your health, but they can also save your marriage as well. Here are five common health problems that you might not have considered their impact on your marriage:
Premature ejaculation (PE) is a very common condition affecting many men. For the average male, the time from insertion to ejaculation is less than three minutes. The definition of PE is ejaculation that occurs prior to when a man wishes or occurs too quickly during intercourse to satisfy his partner.
It’s thought that PE at least partially originates during the late adolescent to late teenage years, when young men often experiment with masturbation. During those younger years, they essentially need to please only themselves. As a result, they learn to do it quickly. Additionally, they often had to “speed things up” in the bathroom while masturbating because they surely did not want to be busted by the home police (a.k.a. mom or sister).
This learned behavior is often very difficult for men to change and can lead to sexually dissatisfied partners. A sexually dissatisfied spouse is vulnerable to temptations outside of the marriage, which can lead to very complex and often irreversible problems. An adage states that “bad sex” has a much greater impact on ruining a relationship (up to 70%) than “good sex” has on improving it (15%).
Thankfully, there is help for men with this condition. Essentially, men must learn to control their pubo-coccygeal (PC) muscles, which originate from the pubic bone, go under the genitals, and attach to the tailbone. A man can discover these muscles by attempting to stop his urine flow midstream. Men with this condition need to go to reputable websites and talk to a doctor or other qualified health professional about how to gain more control over these muscles to stop PE.
Chronic, loud snoring
Chronic, loud snoring is often due to a condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is caused by a collapsing of the upper air passages during sleep, causing a blockage of air to the lungs, which results in low blood oxygen and disrupted sleep.
People who leave this condition untreated can suffer from many complications including depression, loss of sex drive, hyperactive behavior, leg swelling (if severe), heart arrhythmia, heart failure, high blood pressure, and stroke.
In addition to all the above serious personal health problems, the spouse of someone with OSA suffers a great deal too. The non-snoring spouse may be forced to sleep in a different room or may endure many sleepless nights in the room with a snoring spouse. Either way, OSA may be the source of lots of stress in a marriage and can potentially lead to many serious marital problems.
Thankfully, there is a solution to this common health problem. The fix for most people is to get a doctor-prescribed sleep study and likely wear a CPAP device (a small machine attached to a facial mask that blows air through the nose and/or mouth while you are asleep). Be sure to talk to your doctor or your spouse’s doctor about this condition so you can both sleep happily ever after in the same bed!
Untreated depression or other mental illness
The time has come for all of us to start recognizing mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder as true medical conditions “” just as we recognize high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. As a physician, I can tell you that some people are just born prone to depression or to some other mental illness.
Most common mental illnesses have a biological basis, not just an emotional or spiritual basis. Most are due to either overproduction or underproduction of certain neuro-hormones in the brain. For example if your brain is significantly under-producing serotonin (the cause of clinical depression), there is nothing you can do about it other than seek treatment. Think of it like this: If your blood pressure were too high and you tried different self-treatments without success, it would be time to start formal treatment options.
When someone has an untreated mental illness, essentially this person is not himself or herself. It is very difficult to maintain any relationship, let alone a marriage, if you are not “yourself.” People with untreated mental illness often come back to themselves after starting treatment and realize how many past relationships they inadvertently destroyed while they were just not themselves.
Obesity/letting yourself go
Obese, how dare someone call you that! For many people, being told they are overweight or obese seems downright insulting. But it is important for people to know that the term obesity is not a social judgment; it is a medical term that health care providers use to define how much fat is in a person’s body.
Obesity and being overweight can make a person sick in many ways, including serious conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. In addition to the obvious potential health problems, letting yourself go physically may lead to your spouse finding you less attractive, and you may have less energy for the things that you used to love to do with your spouse.
Keeping your temple/body as fit as you can will not only make you more attractive to your spouse, but will also help you avoid the obvious health problems that can easily derail whatever ambitions you may have for yourself, your spouse, and your family. To stay fit:
Get 30 to 40 minutes of physical activity three to five times a week. Start out by walking (walk like you’re running late).
Never try to lose more than one to two pounds a week. Lose more than this and you will likely gain all the weight back plus extra because you have tricked your brain into thinking there is a “famine” in the land (a reflex from our ancient past).
To lose one pound in a week, you’ll need to burn an extra 3,500 calories a week, or 500 calories a day.
Remember, being fit is not just about being thin; it is and should be about being healthy!
Female sexual dysfunction (FSD)
FSD involves several female sexual symptoms, including pain during sexual intercourse, not finding sex pleasurable, lack of desire for sexual activity, an inability to orgasm, and/or a lack of vaginal lubrication (arousal). It’s been estimated that 43 percent of women complain of some type of sexual dysfunction.
While the causes of FSD are not fully known, they likely involve complex interactions between women’s emotions, hormones, stress levels, certain medication side effects, and certain diseases. A number of health problems can interfere with a woman’s ability to enjoy sex and feel pleasure, including:
- Chronic health conditions (e.g., depression, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol) can affect sexual function in a variety of ways.
- Pelvic surgeries (e.g., hysterectomy) can damage and narrow blood vessels and prevent the flow of blood to genital tissues, thus reducing arousal.
- An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroid) can reduce a woman’s sex drive.
- Genital and urinary tract infections can cause discomfort and sometimes painful sex.
Vulvovaginal atrophy is common due to the loss of estrogen production associated with menopause and other conditions (e.g., postpartum), which leads to atrophy of the vulva, vagina, and urinary tract.
Although researchers have yet to determine the exact causes of FSD, many symptomatic treatments exist, so it’s important for a woman suffering from any sexual dysfunction to bring it up to her primary care provider or ob-gyn. Women should enjoy sex just as much as men do!
Jeffrey B. Brown, M.D., is a Johns Hopkins University/Sinai Hospital Internal Medicine trained physician. Throughout his medical school years, residency training and practice of internal medicine, he has received numerous awards and accolades for his compassion and pursuit of academic excellence. Dr. Brown is certified by the National Board of Internal Medicine. For more information, visit his website.