Ageing or aging is the process of becoming older. We might have been thinking there are some parts of our body that will be spared the indignities of ageing, it’s now time to discard that thought.
The truth is, as we age, whether you are single, married, healthy or unhealthy, your body will go through some changes and the results will be shown in your body parts – including your sex organs. You will wake up one day and realise that the organs are gradually changing – in appearance, size, sensitivity and function.
However, experts say this is not a reason to be panic because there are certain steps you can take to make the changes bearable as you age.
5 ways ageing affects men’s sex organs
According to the Director of the Institute of Men’s Health for the Jersey Urology Group, the United States, Dr Brian Steixner, there is a progressive loss of penis size as a man ages though it’s not like he will develop a micropenis. Steixner says as a man ages, the normal skin cells, which were once hale and hearty, get replaced by non-elastic fibres, which sort of affects the whole equation. Steixner tells Men’s Health magazine:
“Want to make it worse? Keep drinking excess beer. As your belly gets bigger, the fat pad pushes out and a larger penile percentage gets buried under the skin. Gain weight, lose length. Simple math. For every 30 pounds you shed, you add an effective half-inch in length.”
Also, US-based sex therapist and author of ‘Penis Problems: A Man’s Guide’, Dr Madeleine Castellanos, says men start to witness penis shrinkage around 40 as a result of decreased blood flow and testosterone.
“By the time a man is in his 60s and 70s, he may lose a centimetre and a half of the length of his penis,” she says in an interview with HuffPost.
She adds that if a man carries belly weight, the penis will appear smaller without it actually being smaller.
“The penis starts inside the body. If you have belly fat, it comes down and extends over the base of the penis. The belly covers the base of the penis, making it appear shorter,” she said.
Castellanos, however, says men are lucky because most women really don’t care about size when it comes to sex.
“In fact, an enormous penis can be quite painful,” she says.
Author and sex educator based in the US, Lou Paget, also says “it’s what a man does with his penis and the rest of his body that matters.”
Penis colour changes
Castellanos says a common problem of ageing in men is atherosclerosis, which is the restriction of blood flow to the heart, brain, and penis. With less blood in the area, the penis appears lighter in colour.
“Just as skin everywhere shows the effects of ageing, so does the penis skin. It may appear more mottled,” she says.
The sex therapist, however, says this is nothing to worry about as long as you have regular checkups that show that everything else is in working order.
Castellanos says testosterone helps support nervous tissue, but when its levels start to drop, there will be an accompanying decrease in penis sensitivity, making it more difficult to reach orgasm. She also says erection won’t be as hard as it used to be.
“This is a case of use it or lose it,” she says.
She, however, explains that men can protect their penile health by having erections every day.
“They don’t have to reach orgasm, but daily erections keep the arteries in shape and bring blood flow to the area. It’s just like if you don’t go to the gym, your muscles will get thinner and your arteries will close up. The same thing happens with a penis,” she adds.
Some men get erectile dysfunction
Millions of men are said to be suffering from erectile dysfunction, and the reason behind it, especially for older men, boils down to blood loss.
According to Steixner, having erectile dysfunction, or simply ED, is like having a heart attack of the penis.
“Preventing it involves pretty much the same advice you give to someone with a heart condition. Eat well and exercise. Control those, and you should be fine,” he says.
Decline in urinary function
Castellanos says the penis can also have urinary problems as a man ages. These problems may include urinating frequently or having difficulty urinating at all.
The sex therapist states that this problem affects 20 per cent of men in their 40s; 50-60 per cent of men in their 60s; and 80-90 per cent of men in their 70s and 80s.
Seven tips for preventing penis problems
Castellanos states that the following are tips for preventing ageing-related penis problems among men.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Get on your feet. Sitting all day puts a lot of pressure on the prostate
- Do moderate exercise several times a week to maintain the tone of the pelvic floor muscles. Jogging or brisk walking will do the trick
- Eat food rich in zinc and selenium such as shellfish, nuts, legumes such as beans, eggs, whole grains, oatmeal, eggs, chicken and bananas
- Limit alcohol consumption: Alcohol increases the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen and increases inflammation in the area. Ejaculate several times a week to flush out the area
- Get seven to eight hours of sleep nightly
- Quit smoking
- Keep stress levels under control
5 ways aging affects women’s sex organs
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom states that as women get older, they also experience changes in their sex organs – specifically the breasts and vagina.
As a woman ages, her breasts lose their firmness, change shape, shrink in size and become more prone to certain abnormal lumps. In fact, from around the age of 40, women are told to expect their breasts to change in size and shape.
You may notice that your breasts shrink in size, sometimes by a cup size or more, unless you put on weight, in which case your breasts may get bigger).
Declining oestrogen levels at the menopause make breast tissue dehydrated and less elastic, so your breasts lose their once rounded shape and begin to sag.
As the years go by, you might also notice a wider space between your breasts. Also, the area around the nipple (the areola) tends to become smaller and may nearly disappear.
Young women who have not yet gone through the menopause often have what’s known as dense breasts.
Dense breasts contain more glandular and less fat tissue than usual. It’s not the same as having firm breasts and has nothing to do with how big or what shape your breasts are.
Having dense breasts isn’t abnormal and isn’t something you can change. But a potential drawback is that dense breasts can make breast cancer screening more difficult because the dense tissue can mask potential tumours on a mammogram.
Breast tissue tends to become less dense as you get older, especially after the menopause, so it becomes easier to detect breast cancers on a mammogram.
Breast lumps are common around the menopause. They’re usually cysts, which are harmless lumps filled with fluid.
But if you notice a lump, go for screening – see your doctor to rule out breast cancer, which is most common in women over 50. Other warning signs of breast cancer include: puckering of the skin; nipple changes (like scaling or discharge); a swollen, red or inflamed breast.
Loss of pubic hair
When a woman ages, it also shows in her vaginal area in terms of greying, thinning, and loss of pubic hair.
“Usually you don’t lose the hair entirely, but a lot can be lost,” says Dr Yael Swica, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the Centre for Family and Community Medicine at the Columbia University, US.
Swica also says your scalp, leg, and underarm hair may also thin, especially after menopause. A gynaecologist and Executive Director of The North American Menopause Society, Dr Margery Gass, tells HuffPost:
“On the bright side, this means you’ll need to shave less as you get older. On the not-so-bright side, hair begins to appear elsewhere. There are women who gain hair on their face and other places they don’t want.”
Fortunately, there are ways to combat this problem, like creams and laser treatments, which are discreet and fairly inexpensive.
Swica explains that aging also affects the vagina as well as the vulva due to the loss of sex hormone in women called oestrogen. She says,
“The loss of our sex hormone (oestrogen) can result in dramatic changes in the appearance and function of the vagina. The vaginal opening can shrink, and the length of the vagina can shrink. You can also get irritation.”
The medical expert explains that irritation occurs because the vaginal walls become thinner, losing elasticity, and especially moisture.
“Anywhere from 20 to 50 per cent of women start to have this complaint of burning, itching – and these are chronic sensations,” says Swica. “With sex, it becomes more pronounced. And that’s when they’ll really notice it because it’s painful.”
Meanwhile, Gass adds that while sex is the main instigator of itchiness, there are some people who notice it other times, perhaps when they are walking or exercising.
Seven tips for preventing breasts, vagina problems
Although there are some aging problems that can’t be completely prevented, experts say the following tips can help women maintain good breast and vagina health.
- Practice good posture: When you slouch and have poor posture, you’re giving gravity more opportunity to pull at your breasts. But, standing or sitting in a good position with your back straight and your shoulders back, can help support the breasts and even give you a natural lift
- Maintain a healthy weight: Do some exercise and try not to gain or lose weight too quickly
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Drink plenty of water: Keep your skin healthy and hydrated to try to preserve its elasticity
- Don’t smoke: It’s not healthy for you or your breasts
- Continue having sex: The more you have sex, the easier it is to keep having it. Think of your vagina as a “use it or lose it” body part. When you don’t have intercourse, the vagina becomes more rigid and vaginal tissue less elastic
- Wear a supportive nursing bra during the day and at night while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding. A nursing bra provides support to the ligaments in your breasts as they grow and become heavy with breast milk.