Sex unlikely to cause cardiac arrest, study finds

Brandon Parsons
November 14, 2017

Cardiac patients anxious about the risks of sex to their health can feel comfortable being intimate: the chances of a heart attack from sexual activity are extremely small, according to the results of a new study. "Death follows unless emergency treatment is begun immediately".

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.

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. "The risk is very small".

Research has found men are far more likely to suffer a sudden cardiac arrest and keel over during or after sex than women.

The study also showed that patients whose heart attacks were linked to sexual activity had higher rates of ventricular fibrillation - a serious cardiac rhythm disturbance - and tachycardia, a higher-than-normal heart rate.

Overall, sudden cardiac arrest during sex accounted for less than one percent of cases in the general population, yet these differed by gender, race and other risk factors.

"Even though SCA during sexual activity was witnessed by a partner, bystander CPR was performed in only one-third of the cases", said Sumeet Chugh, MD, senior study author and associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

The news is most welcome for patients with heart problems who aren't sure if sex could be unsafe, Chugh said.

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.

Only one-third of these SCA cases received bystander CPR. Almost 20 percent of people survived in sex-related cases, compared to only about 13 percent survival odds for other patients. The patients who did were more likely to be male, middle-aged, black and have a history of cardiovascular disease, according to the ACC.

"These findings highlight the importance of continued efforts to educate the public on the importance of bystander CPR for SCA, irrespective of the circumstance".

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