Vitality

Will Sex Kill You? Scientists Probe Link Between Sexual Activity, Cardiac Arrest

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Certain men are more likely to go into cardiac arrest while having sex. CC0 Creative Commons

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.

Black men beware: A letter in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology says men are far more likely to go into cardiac arrest during sex than women, and black men are the most likely of the males to have this problem. Still, only about 1 percent of men who experience sudden cardiac arrest have it happen during sexual activity, a low number that suggests it is not a great threat.

During sudden cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating and stops sending oxygen-rich blood to organs like the brain. It is not the same as a heart attack, in which blood flow to the heart is blocked.

“We observed a relatively low overall burden of [sudden cardiac arrest] related to sexual activity in the community,” the study says. “Although sexual activity involves exertion, the mechanisms triggering [sudden cardiac arrest] may be unique, and in some situations may also involves medications, stimulants and alcohol use.”

The team on this research looked at the timing of sudden cardiac arrest in the cases they studied, pulled from a database with 13 years of reports on the medical events in Portland, Oregon, to find if the cardiac issues occurred during sex or within minutes after the sex ended.

Most of the victims of sex-induced heart stoppages were taking cardiovascular medications, an indication that these people had a history of heart problems — as opposed to dying during sex with no warning.

The scientists also found that in about two-thirds of the cases, even though a partner was there during the cardiac arrest, that partner did not perform CPR on the victim.

Overall, 94 percent of the people who went into cardiac arrest during sex were men, according to the research.

“Sexual activity is an important aspect of quality of life, and is associated with both healthy and mortality benefit,” the authors wrote. “Nonetheless, it is not without risk.”

Previous research has already found a link between sex and minor cardiac events, so this new paper adds to the understanding of how sexual activity could be linked to serious heart problems.

The researchers noted that sudden cardiac arrest kills more than 300,000 people in the U.S. every year and physical activity, particularly when the person is not accustomed to it, is linked to a higher risk of the condition.

However, journal publisher American College of Cardiology said that the researchers did not have information on how often the victims had sex.

“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. “Over the years, we’ve had a fair bit of data on physical activity and how it’s related to sudden cardiac arrest, but no one had looked specifically at sexual activity. The risk is very small.”

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