Sex Increases Risk of Heart Attack by 2.7X—Significantly Less Than Its Fun Multiplier

By Patrick Morgan | March 24, 2011 3:39 pm

There are certain things you’re not supposed to do during sex and having a heart attack is one of them. We’ve known for a while that bursts of moderate to  intense physical activity—including sex—increase heart attack risk, but a few scientists have now put number on that risk. And especially for out-of-shape folks, the diagnosis doesn’t look good (unless you’re aiming for death by sex, of course).

Studying death and sex is a tricky subject: Scientists can’t just round up volunteers, watch them make love, and then note which ones die. So instead they analyzed data from 14 different studies to single out connections between sex, exercise, and the risk of cardiac death or heart attacks.

As the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Acute cardiac events were significantly associated with … sexual activity.” When exercising, you’re 3.5 times more likely to get a heart attack, and when having sex (or immediately after sex), you’re 2.7 times more likely.

The main take-home message is not that you should give up sex, but that you should get more regular exercise. That’s because they also discovered that your likelihood of getting a heart attack during sex decreases by 45% for every “additional time you do physical activity that week.” “What we really don’t want to do is for the public to walk away from this and think exercise is bad,” lead author Jessica Paulus told Reuters.

In addition, this heart attack risk only lasts during the one to two hours during and after sex. So you’d have to “take 10,000 people” and watch them have sex each week for a year in order to see any significant trends. “Each individual session of physical or sexual activity per week [for a group of 10,000 people] can be associated with an increase of 1 to 2 cases of heart attack or sudden cardiac death per year,” Paulus told Reuters. As for whether those few folks are lucky or unfortunate, that’s for you to decide.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Where Does Sex Live in the Brain? From Top to Bottom.
Discoblog: Would You Give Up Sex for Internet Access?
DISCOVER: The Real Dirty Secret about Sex
Discoblog: The Real Dirty Secret about Sex

Image: flickr / Matito

  • Brian Too

    Best. Imagined. Story. Ever!

    “So I was with this chick, and we were, you know, doin’ the higgly piggly. And it was so intense I had a heart attack! Not an imaginary heart attack but a real one! My heart actually stopped. Whoa.”

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    “Higgly piggly”? That’s a new one (to me). Anywho, stay away from the heart attacks.


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