Sexual dysfunction in women could be linked to low resting heart rate variability, according to a new study published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.
Amelia Stanton, from University Of Texas, said that because heart rate variability (HRV), the variation in the time intervals between a person's consecutive heartbeats, has been related to many negative mental health and cardiac problems, it's interesting to bring an established clinical marker into sex research.
However, moderate sympathetic nervous system activation has been shown to increase women's genital arousal, Stanton said.
Using the Female Sexual Function Index, which considered domains such as pain, satisfaction and desire, researchers analyzed HRV and self-reported data from 72 women aged 18-39 to evaluate overall sexual functioning.
Co-author Cindy Meston added that the Female Sexual Function Index has been shown to effectively identify women with clinically significant levels of sexual dysfunction.
Researchers found that in addition to overall sexual dysfunction, women with below average HRV were more likely to experience difficulties with sexual arousal.
With recent support from the Food and Drug Administration on what could be the first-ever approved drug for the treatment of female sexual dysfunction, the researchers believe that HRV could be used as an index of drug-related changes in sexual function.
Stanton noted that because evidence showed that low HRV was a potential risk factor for sexual dysfunction, physicians had a simple, low-cost and non-intrusive method to measure a woman's risk for sexual dysfunction. It made it easier to talk about something a little bit more private and get women the help that they needed.