Sex rarely causes hearts to stop, says new study

Posted November 14, 2017

Many men with heart disease fear that having sex could kill them, but new research shows the danger is slight.

Scientists have figured out how many people die of heart problems during sex, and they say certain groups are more at risk than others of going into sudden cardiac arrest while engaging in sexual activity.

Most of the cases were men with a history of heart disease.

"People will ask their doctors if sex increases their risk of sudden death, and we've never had the answer before because there never was a study", senior study author Dr. Sumeet Chugh, said a statement from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

While sudden cardiac arrest, or SCA, results in more than 300,000 deaths each year in the United States, fewer than 1 percent were linked with sexual activity.

Sex was linked to only 34 out of more than 4,500 cardiac arrests that occurred in the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area between 2002 and 2015.

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A cardiac arrest happens when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating. Too much effort is usually bad for the heart, and some might be afraid they might suffer a cardiac arrest right in the middle of the enjoyable activity. "Now we can tell them the risk is very low".

About one in 1,000 women will experience sudden cardiac arrest during sexual activity and compared to one in 100 for men.

This varies from a heart assault, where blood stream to the heart is blocked. Patients who experienced SCA related to sexual activity also had a higher rate of ventricular fibrillation/tachycardia than those who did not.

However, journal publisher American College of Cardiology said that the researchers did not have information on how often the victims had sex. Bystanders performed chest compressions on 27 percent of the non sexual activity patients, while 32 percent of the patients who had a sudden cardiac arrest during or immediately after sex received CPR. The researchers determined that the low bystander CPR rate accounted for the less than 20 percent of patients who survived to hospital discharge.

Only a third of those suffering from cardiac arrest from sex received potentially life-saving CPR-despite the likelihood that a partner was around to witness the arrest. They also highlight the need to educate the public on the importance of bystander CPR for sudden cardiac arrest, irrespective of the circumstances, researchers said.