Published on March 22, 2011 at 10:26 PM
By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
According to the latest research from Tufts Medical Center, sexual intercourse, previously believed does increase the risk of a heart attack, but the risk is still small and only rises during and soon after the deed.
“Anything that increase heart rate and blood pressure puts strain on your heart and those who are not used to being physically fit are at higher risk of a cardiac event,” says Dr. Philip Ragno, president of Island Cardiac Specialists in Garden City, N.Y. “Emotional arousal [during sex] will also increase adrenaline and get heart rate going even in the absence of physical exertion,” he adds.
For the study the team analyzed past studies in which heart attack victims, mostly men in their 50s and 60s, were questioned about their activities just preceding and during their coronaries to see if sex served as a trigger for their cardiac events. They found that sexual activity caused a 2.7 increased risk of heart attack, this overall risk was quite small. Some studies also show that regular sexual activity (usually defined as two or more times a week) actually decreases one's risk of heart attack over time.
According to lead author Dr. Issa Dahabreh, people shouldn't take the new report to mean the sex is harmful for those with heart disease “because the absolute risk is really small.” Regular exercise also made sex and other types of physical exertion less likely to be a trigger for heart attack, the study found. “We saw a 45 percent reduction in the relative risk of heart attack with every additional weekly exercise session,” says co-author Jessica Paulus, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Chip Lavie, medical director of Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute added, “The main take-home [is that] regular exercise training, which we should be promoting anyway as a means to improve cardio respiratory fitness…will markedly reduce the risk associated with both acute exercise/exertion as well as sexual activity.”
Although a threefold increase in heart-attack risk just after intercourse sounds scary, the overall likelihood of having a heart attack after working out or making love is still very low - on the order of 3 in 1,000,000, as opposed to 1 in 1,000,000. The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.