Women who experience sexual dysfunction or lack interest in sex altogether may want to check their heartbeat. A study of 72 women aged 18 to 39 linked their heart rate variability (HRV)—the variation in the time that lapses between one heartbeat and the next—to their overall sexual health, possibly offering a way for doctors to determine which women will benefit from libido-increasing drugs, LiveScience reports. Published in Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, the study found that women with a low HRV (or steady heart rate) more often reported sexual issues than women with an average or better HRV (a heart rate that changes depending on the moment). "Low HRV is likely a risk factor for sexual dysfunction in women," says study co-author Amelia Stanton.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin conducted the study by measuring participants' heartbeats while they watched film about "a neutral subject," LiveScience reports. The participants then answered the 19-question Female Sexual Function Index, which the study explains touches on subjects like arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and sexual pain. The finding echoes other research about low HRV, which is already associated with heavy drinking, anxiety, and depression, and erectile dysfunction in men, according to a press release. Perhaps a healthier heart pumps more blood to the genitals, says Stanton, who sees emotions playing a role: "Low HRV has been associated with blunted emotional responses," she says. "So both blood flow and emotional responding play large roles in female sexual function." (Another study says that more sex might make you less happy.)