THURSDAY, June 18, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Women with lower resting heart rate variability may be more likely to have sexual problems, a new study suggests.
Heart rate variability refers to differences in the length of time between heartbeats. Those changes in heart rate play a particularly important role in women's sexual arousal, the researchers explained.
The study included 72 women between the ages of 18 and 39. The researchers measured the women's heart rates while they watched erotic film and neutral film clips.
Women who had below-average heart rate variability were much more likely to have sexual arousal dysfunction and overall sexual dysfunction than other women, the study found. However, the study did not prove a cause-and effect link between heart rate variability and sexual function.
The findings were published recently in the journal Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.
"Our study indicated that low heart rate variability might place women at risk for sexual arousal problems and overall sexual difficulties," study leader Amelia Stanton, from the University of Texas at Austin, said in a journal news release.
"Given that low resting heart rate variability has been associated with depression, anxiety and alcohol dependence, it is not surprising that it may also predict female sexual dysfunction," she added.
Heart rate variability could offer an easy, non-intrusive and cost-effective way to assess possible sexual dysfunction and to monitor treatment, Stanton said.
Past research has found a link between resting heart rate variability and erectile problems in men.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about sexual dysfunction in women.