Sex rarely makes heart stop, study shows

Kristen Gonzales
November 14, 2017

Even though sudden cardiac arrest during sexual activity was witnessed by a partner, bystander CPR was performed in only one-third of the cases. "Death follows unless emergency treatment is begun immediately".

By looking at the instances of SCAs in the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study (Oregon SUDS) database between 2002 and 2015, the researchers found that just 0.7 percent were recorded as having taken place during or within one hour of sexual activity.

It also found that sudden fatal heart attacks among people with a pre-existing heart condition were not significantly more likely to be triggered by sex. "Now we have data and we can say to them the risk is very low". That means that sex is linked to only about one in a hundred cases of cardiac arrest in men.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute reported Sunday at an American Heart Association conference that only one in every 100 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in men occurred after sexual activity.

In an earlier article about sex and heart attack, a United States cardiologist puts the absolute risk of heart attack for a 50-year-old man who exercises regularly at one chance in a million per hour.

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Though almost 90 percent of those suffering cardiac arrest out of a hospital die, CPR can double or triple a person's chance of surviving, according the American Heart Association. On average, these patients were more likely to be male, middle-aged, African-American and have a history of cardiovascular disease, with a majority taking cardiovascular medication.

In addition, African Americans comprised 7.8 percent of the sudden cardiac arrests in the study, but nearly 19 percent of the sexual activity-related cardiac arrests. Bystanders performed chest compressions on 27 percent of the non-sexual activity patients, while 32 percent of the patients who had heart attacks during or right after sex received CPR. This low bystander CPR rate accounted for less than 20 per cent of patients who survived to hospital discharge, the researchers noted.

Researchers said the findings may help inform discussions between doctors and patients on the safety of sexual activity and highlight the need to educate the public on the importance of CPR for sudden cardiac arrest.

Generally, older adults who are healthy enough for sex also probably have healthy blood vessels, said Dr. Venu Menon, a director of the cardiac intensive care unit at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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