Can You Die from a Heart Attack During Sex?
Sex is an important part of most couple’s relationship and life. Therefore, it is not surprising that some people worry about whether it is possible to die from a heart attack during sex. In most cases, the people most concerned with this issue are those who are already suffering from heart disease and are at risk of having a heart attack. So, is it really possible to die from a heart attack during sex?
The answer is yes, it is possible, but it is not very likely.
Indeed, people have suffered heart attacks while they were having sex, but they have also suffered heart attacks while walking, watching TV, cleaning the house, and doing a multitude of activities. Heart attacks can happen at any minute of any day, and they are often completely unrelated to the activity one is doing. In fact, the majority of heart attacks occur during periods of rest and not during any physical exertion.
It is true that sex raises the heart rate and gets the heart pumping. However, this heart rate does not skyrocket! It is approximately the same as going up two flights of steps or walking fast. This classifies sex as a low risk physical activity. In fact, a report was published in 2013 1 that showed that only approximately 2.2% of all heart attacks occur during sex. That is very low, especially when compared to the 5.0% of heart attacks that occur while a person is drinking coffee.
Here are some of the triggers described in the report and the percent of risk (from highest to lowest):
- Traffic exposure = 7.4%
- Physical exertion = 6.2%
- Alcohol = 5.0%
- Coffee = 5.0%
- Negative emotions = 3.9%
- Anger = 3.1%
- Heavy meal = 2.7%
- Positive emotions = 2.4%
- Sexual activity = 2.2%
- Cocaine use = 0.9%
- Marijuana smoking = 0.8%
- Respiratory infractions = 0.6%.
This shows that, although it is possible to have a heart attack while engaging in sex, the chances are extremely low. In fact, it was determined that even people with heart disease have a one in 50,000 chance of having a heart attack within two hours of intercourse. This means that you have a higher chance of getting hit by lighting than of dying from a heart attack during sex.
Benefits of sex
Not only has sex proved not to be a major cause of heart attacks, but there is even significant evidence that shows that sex can benefit the heart. Here are just a few benefits that sex can have for the heartand for the body:
- It lowers blood pressure. Sex has been shown to lower one’s blood pressure, which can decrease the chance of having a heart attack.
- Burns calories. Sex burns about five calories a minute and can be considered a form of exercise. Thus, the muscles are working and the fat is being burned.
- Sex raises the heart rate, which is good for the heart.
- It keeps the estrogen and testosterone levels in balance, ensuring your heart’s health.
- Sex strengthens the immune system, decreasing one’s chances of getting sick.
- It improves the libido, and the sex life with it.
- Sex strengthens the pelvic muscles which improves women’s bladder control.
- It decreases the chances of prostate cancer in men.
- Sex decreases stress, which is the cause of many ailments.
Sex and Atherosclerosis
These statistics are true for people with healthy arteries. There are some conditions that can increase the chances of a heart attack during sex. The biggest one is atherosclerosis, which is also known as arteriosclerotic vascular disease. This condition is characterized by plaque building up in the arteries. This plaque is made up of calcium, cholesterol, fat and other substances. The plaque becomes hard over time and the arteries become narrower and less flexible. This limits the amount of oxygen-rich blood that is able to get to the various organs of the body. When people have sex their heart beats faster. While this is not a problem for people with healthy arteries, those with atherosclerosis are at risk. Their arteries are blocked and their heart may be unable to get all the oxygen and nutrients it needs, causing a transient ischemic attack, a heart attack, or even death. However, this can happen with any physical activity and not just sex.
Sex by itself is not a danger to the heart at all. On the contrary, it has a huge number of health benefits. It can only be dangerous for people with atherosclerosis, just as any physical activity can be. So, what can you do to lower the chances of a heart attack, especially one during sex? Stopping having sex is not the solution! To decrease the chances of a heart attack, one needs to live a healthy lifestyle. This means having a healthy diet and doing regular exercise.
1 Public health importance of triggers of myocardial infraction: a comparative risk assessment. T.S. Nawrot. The Lancet, vol.377, 26 Feb. 2011.