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. In fact, the team discovered that only 0.7 of all sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) cases were related to sexual activity.
Researchers from the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute analyzed all the deaths due to SCA present in the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study, which collected information about people’s passing between 2002 and 2015. Out of 4,557 people that had experienced SCAs, only 34 cases had a link to sexual activity.
The people experiencing SCAs during or after coitus were more likely to be male, middle-aged, African-American, and have a history of cardiovascular disease. Most of them were taking heart medication. Interestingly, more people that experienced SCA during sex suffered from ventricular fibrillation and tachycardia than those who experienced SCAs in other circumstances. The findings are published in a paper, Sexual Activity as a Trigger for Sudden Cardiac Arrest, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
While the results are fascinating, the team did point out the limitations of the study. One major factor that couldn’t be known related to the frequency of the sexual act. So the researchers couldn’t estimate the relative risk of SCA occurring during sex compared to the risk while resting or during another strenuous physical activity.
There are other important variables that it was not possible to consider fully, such the contemporary use of medication, sexual stimulants, and even alcohol. The risk is clearly low but the researchers stated that the picture is not crystal clear just yet.
Something, they were able to estimate though is the impact of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on people who suffered SCA during sex. Although, these heart attacks happened with someone else present only one-third received CPR. In total, only 20 percent of the people who experienced SCA in the bedroom survived.
"Even though SCA during sexual activity was witnessed by a partner, bystander CPR was performed in only one-third of the cases," Dr Sumeet Chugh, MD, senior study author and associate director of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, said in a statement. "These findings highlight the importance of continued efforts to educate the public on the importance of bystander CPR for SCA, irrespective of the circumstance."
By performing CPR during the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest, the chances of survival for a patient can double or even triple. Sudden cardiac arrest leads to 350,000 deaths per year, so teaching people CPR could truly save countless lives.