How heart-stopping is sex, really?

Faith Castro
November 14, 2017

Men made up the vast majority of the sex-triggered deaths, 32 out of 34, and this means in men, one per cent of all sudden heart attack deaths was sex related, compared with 0.1 per cent in women.

Sexual activity is rarely associated with sudden cardiac arrest, but it's men who are most at risk, and often they are not revived by their partner. In cases like these, "only five or six of them will have a heart arrest". A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow to the heart gets cut off, starving it of its oxygen supply.

Sudden cardiac arrest kills about 350,000 people every year in the United States.

The study analyzed a number of 4,557 cardiac arrest cases which have occurred in Portland, Oregon, over a period of a few years.

Patients who experienced sudden cardiac arrest linked to sexual activity had higher rates of what's know as ventricular fibrillation - a serious cardiac rhythm disturbance - and tachycardia, or a higher-than-normal heart rate.

If you have a heart condition and are afraid that sex could trigger cardiac arrest, there's a reason to relax.

When sex preceded cardiac arrest, survival odds tended to be a bit better.

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Almost 20 percent of the sex-related hearts attack patients survived, compared to just 12.9 percent of those whose heart attacks weren't linked to sex.

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.

Of those cases, 18 occurred during sex and 15 immediately after sex.

Though all patients included in the study had their sudden cardiac arrest witnessed by another person, less than a third received CPR. As such, 50 percent of the physically active patients survived, while only about 12 percent of the sexually active patients made it.

Despite what's portrayed on television and in movies, SCA triggered by sexual activity is an uncommon plot twist in the real world, senior study author Sumeet Chugh, MD, said in a release from the American College of Cardiology.

It is known sex may trigger heart attacks.

Overall, the study authors said they found a relatively low burden of SCA in relation to sexual activity. "What it does say is that if you are sexually active you should be conscious of your health and if you have any shortness of breath or chest pain you should see a doctor".

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