Although it's a staple trope in film and television, a new study suggests that having a serious heart attack is actually highly unlikely to happen during or just after sex. The majority of cases were men with a previous history of cardiovascular disease.
"People will ask their doctors if sex increases their risk of sudden death, and we've never had the answer before because there never was a study", Dr. Sumeet Chugh, the lead author of the study and the associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, said in a statement. 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 US each year.
The figures were for sudden cardiac arrest, as opposed to a myocardial infarction, which is what is better known as a heart attack. All reported cases were based on emergency medical service reports containing detailed information regarding the cause of the cardiac arrest.
Only about 1 in 100 men and 1 in 1,000 women experience sudden cardiac arrest during sexual activity, the study found. A 2011 study by researchers at Harvard found that sex is easier than working out on a treadmill - and the heart rates of the men in the study rarely rose above 130 beats a minute.
The bad news is that if you do suffer cardiac arrest from an amorous encounter, there's a decent chance your partner will just let you croak.
Survival often depends on how quickly patients receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or chest compressions, which can help restore circulation and maintain blood flow to vital organs.
Only a third of those suffering from cardiac arrest from sex received potentially life-saving CPR-despite the likelihood that a partner was around to witness the arrest.
Overall, 94 percent of the people who went into cardiac arrest during sex were men, according to the research.
About 19 percent of the patients in sex-related cardiac arrest cases survived their ordeal, compared with an average survival rate of around 10 percent nationwide, he said. Their research experts presented at the conference society of cardiology in Anaheim USA. They also highlight the need to educate the public on the importance of bystander CPR for sudden cardiac arrest, irrespective of the circumstances, researchers said.