Sex improves sleep, happiness, Kegel strength -- just about anything you can think of.

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Story highlights

Healthy sex life could help you look years younger down the road

Anthropologist found that regular sex improves problem-solving skills, fosters creativity

If you don't have much of a libido, it can mean there's a problem

Erectile dysfunction is clearly linked to poor cardiovascular health, studies show  — 

We all know sex feels good, but does it also do our health good? The answer is a big, loud, bed-shaking, “Yeah, baby!”

“Your sexual health is a reflection of your overall health,” says Ian Kerner, a New York City-based sex counselor and author of “She Comes First.”

Researchers delving into the science of sex have found that getting down does everything from improve self-esteem to lower the risk of certain diseases. Conversely, if you don’t have much of a libido, it can mean there’s a problem.

“If you’re not feeling sexual, that’s usually an indication that something else is going on in your life,” says Kerner. “You could be depressed, out of shape, you might not be eating right, you might be stressed out.”

Identifying and addressing those issues is essential, says Kerner, because our sexual experience ripples into virtually every aspect of our lives.

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Sexual activity offers some of these off-the-charts benefits, not available in pill form:

It might help your heart

Yep, a strong erection equals a strong heart. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, erectile dysfunction (ED) is clearly linked to poor cardiovascular health.

Researchers studied 2,300 men and found that subjects with ED had a 58% higher risk of coronary heart disease. Though there are other causes of ED, if you find your… um, “friend” flagging, guys, get to your doc posthaste and you could potentially save your heart.

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It may decrease your risk of prostate cancer

A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that of 29,000 male subjects, those who had 21 ejaculations a month (whether with a partner or, um, alone) were significantly less likely to get prostate cancer later in life than those who had only four to seven a month.

It can help your job

Anthropologist Helen Fisher found that regular sex improves problem-solving skills, heightens creativity and fosters better cooperation (among other things) by releasing dopamine and oxytocin – aka the happy-making chemicals in the brain.

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It makes you look younger

That afterglow is no illusion: One study out of Scotland kept tabs on 3,500 European and American women and men who looked young for their age (seven to 12 years younger than they actually were). After tracking these lucky people for 10 years, researchers found that the No. 1 factor they had in common was regular exercise.

The number-two factor? Yep: a healthy, active sex life. In fact, most of the study participants had sex two to three times a week, all in the context of a committed relationship.

(Word to your mother – and anyone else in the “sex should be meaningful” camp: Casual sex had no such beauty correlation.)

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It eases stress

Right before orgasm, women often go into “a trance-like state,” says Kerner, activating parts of the brain that greatly help with stress-relief. That’s why he recommends regularly indulging in “comfort sex,” the kind of nookie that happens in the same place, at the same time, using the same position.

It may not be enthralling, but it can help women quickly go into a deeply relaxed state.

It wakes up the brain

Just as important as comfort sex, says Kerner, are regular doses of the kind of sex that stimulates the imagination with fantasy and excitement.

“Sexual arousal is a combination of physiological and psychological arousal,” Kerner says. “We often lose the mental component that’s all about stimulating the imagination and the mind.”

He also emphasizes the benefits of corralling all the “sensual pathways to sex – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell.”

So he encourages not only regular sex – once a week, at least – but also a sex life that includes it all: comfort, adventure and all the senses.

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The pro-sex studies seem practically endless: Sex improves sleep, happiness, Kegel strength – just about anything you can think of. So if you’re in a sexual rut, do what you need to do to get out of it.

“Walk around for half an hour and [view] the world as a sexual being,” suggests Kerner. “Appreciate sexy people, smells, all of it.”

If you haven’t been feeling sexual lately, figure out why. See your doc if you suspect the cause might be medical. Otherwise, address it by going to the gym, getting a new outfit, whatever.

“When they start having healthy, connected sex, it’s amazing how people’s lives brighten up,” says Kerner. “They become inspired to lose weight and take care of themselves, they feel loved, more satisfied, and they’re less likely to be distracted by workplace irritations.

“Having a healthy sex life contributes to your health in so many ways.”

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