Sex rarely causes hearts to stop, says new study

Two people are seen embracing Oct. 16 2004 in New York City

For many men the idea of dying during or shortly after sex is considered among the best ways to go, but new research suggests it is actually quite rare.

"Based on this data we now know that the likelihood of sex being a trigger for sudden cardiac arrest is extremely low", senior study author Dr. Sumeet Chugh, of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Heart Institute in Los Angeles, said by email.

Most of the cases were men with a history of heart disease. Previous studies have confirmed sex can trigger non-fatal cardiac events like heart attacks, but Chugh and colleagues designed their study to determine whether or not sexual activity is a risk factor for SCA in particular, since the condition accounts for 350,000 deaths in the USA each year.

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is when the heart suddenly stops beating; it usually occurs without warning.

In total, the scientists identified 4,557 SCAs in Portland during the 13-year study period.

The data, recorded from paramedic notes as part of a long-running study on sudden unexpected deaths found more than half of these happened (55 per cent) during sex, while the rest occurred within 15 minutes.

This was slightly higher than the 27 per cent of non-sex triggered heart attacks, the difference was not statistically significant and those individuals might have died alone.

What is a Heart Attack?

Researchers found that even though sexual partners were present during cardiac arrest, only one-third performed CPR, highlighting the importance of continued CPR education efforts "irrespective of the circumstance".

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

The researchers noted that sudden cardiac arrest kills more than 300,000 people in the USA every year and physical activity, particularly when the person is not accustomed to it, is linked to a higher risk of the condition. Almost 20 percent of people survived in sex-related cases, compared to only about 13 percent survival odds for other patients. That means that sex is linked to only about one in a hundred cases of cardiac arrest in men.

A research letter published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology said that only a very tiny number of heart attacks have something to do with sex.

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