Having sex regularly could contribute to improved health and a longer life in people with high blood pressure, according to new research. In a study of over 4,500 people, scientists found a significant link between less frequent sex and greater mortality in younger and middle-aged patients in the US.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often called a “silent killer”, as it frequently causes no symptoms. But just because there are no outward signs, this doesn’t mean no harm is being done on the inside. Beyond the very well-documented risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension has also been linked to damage to the brain and kidneys.
Many ways of reducing the risks of high blood pressure have been proposed, from breathing exercises to changing your diet, but a new study has found a link with another lifestyle factor that might raise a few eyebrows.
A team of scientists in China set out to fill a gap in previous research, namely a lack of knowledge about the role that sexual activity can play in clinical outcomes for hypertensive patients.
“Hypertension is an important public health problem worldwide. However, the relationship between sexual frequency and all-cause mortality in hypertensive patients is not yet clear,” corresponding author Jiahua Liang explained to PsyPost.
Data on sexual activity and frequency for over 4,500 patients diagnosed with hypertension were obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, carried out in the US between 2005 and 2014. Slightly over half of the participants were male, with a mean age of 40.6 years across all participants at the time of enrollment.
The results showed that patients who engaged in sexual activity between 12 and 51 times per year – so, roughly once a month to once a week – were at a significantly lower risk of all-cause mortality than those who had sex less frequently. This was the case even when other factors, like age and other medical conditions, were taken into account.
“An increased frequency of sexual activity may have protective effects on overall health and quality of life in hypertensive patients, and this finding has significant clinical significance for young and middle-aged patients with hypertension,” said Liang.
But before you hop in the sack, it is worth noting that the relationship between sex frequency and mortality cannot be said to be causal at this stage. It is possible that regularly engaging in sexual activity improves heart health, shielding people from some of the negative impacts of high blood pressure. But it’s also possible that people who get it on more often are healthier to begin with.
Since the study group consisted of younger patients, it’s also unclear how these findings might translate to an older population. In short, more research is called for.
“[W]ell-coordinated and longitudinal studies are needed to more accurately estimate increasing sexual frequency in improving prognosis among young and middle-aged patients with hypertension, and research on reasons of lower sexual frequency needs to be further investigated in the future,” the authors wrote in their conclusion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of all US adults have hypertension, but only about a quarter have their condition under control. Given the size of the issue, and the risks of leaving hypertension unchecked over the long term, it’s vital that scientists understand as much as possible about all the different risk factors.
And if science is going to tell us that having an active sex life could be good for our health, who are we to complain?
The study is published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.