Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pretty Women Bad for Men's Health?

"If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife," goes the song. But a new study by the University of Valencia reveals that just being around a beautiful female can cause men to release cortisol, a nasty stress hormone.

Cortisol is produced during physical or psychological stress and can contribute to worsening heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, clinical depression and hypertension. In the study, 84 men attempted to solve a sudoku puzzle with a woman they considered "out of their league" in the room. When each man was left alone with the gorgeous lady, his cortisol levels spiked. Researchers believe that the hormone increase had to do with the opportunity for courtship.

Patti Britton, a clinical sexologist and author of "The Art of Sex Coaching," says she isn't surprised that this situation could trigger the stress hormone.

"Men are much more vulnerable than they let on," she says. "They're taught to display bravado, but it's often a cover-up for insecurities that lie underneath. For them, a beautiful woman is an intimidation factor, and the fight or flight response is triggered."

When it comes to relationships and courtship, excitement and fear are two emotions that frequently go hand in hand. But the good news is, by using some specific techniques, cortisol release can be kept at bay.

"Men need to self-soothe the anxious response," says Britton. "They need to stop the negative messages, the negative self-talk."

Britton also says that when men stop seeing women solely as sex objects, they'll have an easier time keeping anxiety in check.

"You have to be willing to humanize a potential partner and stop objectifying her," she says. "When someone like Pamela Anderson walks into a room -- she's overwhelmingly beautiful. But inside her there's also a vulnerable person who wants to be loved."

Instead of simply avoiding the hotties, men should work on boosting their confidence levels.

"Shift away from 'she's out of my league' and into 'this is someone I'd like to know,'" says Britton. "Humanize her. In fact, the more men put themselves out there with women they find attractive, the easier it will be to feel genuine confidence. If you're afraid of swimming, the first step is to get into the water. Practice makes perfect."

Dr. David J. Ores, a general practitioner in Manhattan, feels that the study should be taken with a grain of salt.

"This shows a very transient, brief rise in cortisol levels," says Ores. "A steady elevation over 10 or 20 years caused by being in the wrong job or an unhappy relationship would be more cause for concern."

Ores also points out that once you snag a pretty woman, chances are you will not walk around in a constant state of stress for the rest of your life.

"As the relationship evolves, each partner will see many more features they like or dislike, and a certain comfort level can arise."

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