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Still Sexy After 60 #2/4 ( By TIME - jan. 19. 2004 )

Nowadays doctors can help many of them. Since Viagra's ballyhooed debut in 1998, the little blue pills and their progeny (Levitra and Cialis) have been doled out--thanks in part to former Senator Bob Dole's TV huckstering--by the millions. They have been a boon for countless men (and, one hopes, their partners) while reducing demand for penile implants and other awkward mechanical aids. "We took Mr. V on our cruise," an elderly couple recently wrote Tampa, Fla., sex therapist Bonnie Saks from their post-counseling trip. "Had a great time. Thank you very much." Still, these wonder drugs won't do any good if there is no sexual urge in the first place or if other health conditions impair erectile function. As Saks points out, "The medications won't initiate libido. The desire has to be there already in order for them to work."

Yet sexual dysfunction isn't just about male impotence. Both sexes experience failures as they age. And any number of health factors may be at fault, including poor circulation, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stress and alcoholism--to say nothing of the medications often prescribed for them. For women, the problem is often a decline in estrogen at menopause, usually around age 50. That may cause disconcerting hot flashes as well as dryness and a thinning of the vaginal wall that can make intercourse unpleasurable, if not painful. Production of the male sex hormone testosterone--which occurs in both sexes--also drops, and with that may come a diminished interest in sex. Finally, as wrinkles and cellulite accumulate, they can affect a woman's self-image. She may not only feel less desire, she may feel she's less desirable to her partner, who by this time is probably having self-image and performance problems of his own.

For women, there are no magical routes to arousal. So far, Viagra-type drugs haven't worked for them. On the contrary, an indifferent partner who suddenly becomes amorous can ruin a relationship. Divorce lawyers talk these days about Viagra affairs and split-ups. Some doctors are prescribing testosterone as a libido booster for so-called low-T women, helping push up testosterone sales some 17 times in the past decade to about $400 million annually. Variously given as a pill combined with estrogen or as a patch, cream or injection, testosterone remains unproven as a sex aid. Meanwhile, it can cause oily skin, unwanted facial hair, a lowered voice and an upsetting onslaught of sexual fantasies.

But these risks haven't slowed the run on sex-enhancing nostrums, from herbal supplements like horny goat weed to topical Viacreme, many of them sold on the Web. How good are they? Probably not much better than the monkey testicles worried men had sutured onto their own testicles in the 1920s. ConsumerLab, a White Plains, N.Y., testing firm, found when it sampled Web-peddled human growth hormone (HGH) supplements that they contained no more HGH than a hamburger.



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