Resuming sexual activity doesn’t trigger heart attacks, study finds

Resuming sexual activity doesn’t trigger heart attacks, study finds

Sex is rarely the cause of a heart attack and patients should be encouraged to resume their sexual activity following a cardiac episode, according to research published by The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Sexual activity can be a matter of concern for heart attack patients and their partners as they fear sex may trigger another cardiac event, researchers said.

“Based on our data, it seems very unlikely that sexual activity is a relevant trigger of heart attack,” lead study author Dr. Dietrich Rothenbacher said in a news release. “It is important to reassure patients that they need not be worried and should resume their usual sexual activity.”

Researchers asked 536 heart disease patients to report their level of sexual activity in the year leading up to their heart attack, and then followed up with these patients over the next 10 years. While 100 additional adverse cardiovascular events did occur within this group of patients, it was determined that sexual activity was not a risk factor for these subsequent adverse events.

Additionally, researchers found that only 0.7 percent of patients reported sex within an hour before their heart attack, while over 78 percent reported that their last sexual activity occurred more than 24 hours before their heart attack.

“Once patients are able to climb two flights of stairs without symptoms, they are safe to resume sex with their usual partner,” says Dr. Dory Jarzabkowski, cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “They do need to be cautioned not to combine medications for erectile dysfunction with nitrates for heart disease because the combination can lead to an unsafe drop in blood pressure.”

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  1. Interesting read. You stated that 0.7% of patients reported sex within an hour before their heart attack, which equates to nearly 4 patients out of the study’s 536 participants. This is indeed a low number. However, you then said that 78% of participants reported sexual activity at least 24 hours prior to the cardiac event… if this is correct, that means that the remaining 22% of the participants (118 people of the 536) DID report sexual activity prior to the cardiac event. According to the data presented, 1/5 people in this study had an intimate encounter on the same day as a heart attack- this is not a small fraction, and is something to be considered despite the title of this article. Perhaps future studies can include a larger sample size and more variables to look deeper into this medical concern. It’s good to know that for a majority of people this may not be a problem at all, but perhaps people with other risk factors should be more considerate and take any tips they can from a trusted physician.

  2. Actually, the article states that the participants reported last sexual activity as being more than 24 hours prior to the cardiac event, meaning it had occurred at least 24 hours prior. That could mean 24 hours prior, 1 week prior, or 1 year prior, we have no way of knowing. 78% are reporting no sexual activity the day of the event.

  3. Yes, Theresa, you are absolutely right- the article states “over 78 percent reported that their last sexual activity occurred more than 24 hours before their heart attack.” So yes, this could mean one day, one week, one year, etc., and you are right that this is a large, encouraging percentage that might mean sex had nothing to do with the heart attack. However, this figure also indicates that the remaining percentage of participants (just under 22%), DID have sexual activity WITHIN 24 hours of their heart attack. And that 22% equates to 118 people in this case… which is NOT small considering the total number of participants was only 536. More than 1 in 5 of these people had heart attacks the same day (within 24 hours) as having sex. I think this information should be presented just as the other side of it is presented here, so that people can consider all the evidence gathered from this study and ask other questions that it begs. Maybe the 118 people who had a cardiac event within 24 hours of sexual activity had other risk factors at play, and maybe they did not. Point is, we should be analytical in thinking about our health, and this study misses a lot. It is a great start, and hopefully we can better understand the correlation between physical activity, heart attacks, and a range of other factors that affect our cardiac health.

About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.