Just 17 Britons have died from cardiac arrests while having sex over the past three decades, study reveals
- Experts analysed nearly 7,000 heart deaths recorded over 26 years in London
- Only a fraction of this total died of a heart condition during sex, or shortly after
- Researchers say findings will come as a relief to Britons living with heart disease
Just 17 Britons have died of cardiac arrests during sex over the past three decades, an analysis has revealed.
St George’s University of London researchers trawled through data of nearly 7,000 sudden cardiac deaths between 1994 and 2000.
Roughly 0.2 per cent of the victims died during sexual intercourse or within an hour after.
The majority of deaths involved middle-aged men with no history of heart problems.
A random cardiac arrest — when the heart suddenly stops — was the most common cause of death.
Experts argued the findings should reassure millions living with heart conditions that having sex doesn’t pose a significant risk to their health.
Charities have found that people with heart conditions can experience anxiety about their sex life, with some worried that having intercourse could put excess strain on their organ.
A study has total of 17 sudden cardiac arrest deaths have been linked to sexual activity out of nearly 7,000 cases. Authors say the finding should reassure the millions of Britons living with heart disease that their sex lives are not putting their health at risk
Feeling anxious about sex following the diagnosis of a heart condition or a cardiac emergency is relatively common according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
The charity recommends that before having sex people with heart conditions should think about:
- avoiding having sex after a heavy meal as there is a risk of indigestion after eating which can mimic chest pain.
- avoiding too much alcohol before sex as it could make you lightheaded and can increase the risk of arrhythmias
- find a comfortable position that works for you
- ask your partner to take a more active role
- if you have a glyceryl trinitrate spray or tablets, a medication used to treat angina, a type of chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscles, keep them where you can reach them just in case you need them
Professor Mary Sheppard, one of the authors of the study, said: ‘We believe these findings provide some reassurance that engaging in sexual activity is relatively safe in patients with a cardiac condition, especially in younger individuals.’
The data was collected from St George’s cardiac pathology centre, the only facility of it kind to specialise in sudden cardiac death in the UK.
The average of age of the sex-related fatalities was 38, and two-thirds of the victims were men.
Only one in four had any history of cardiac disease, according to the study published in the medical journal JAMA Cardiology.
The main case of cardiac arrests are cardiomyopathy, abnormal heart rhythms or other diseases of the vital organ.
But sometimes the cause of the death cannot be pinpointed.
This was the case for just over half of the 17 sex-related fatalities, with nine attributed to sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, a medical term for when the heart malfunctions and stops beating and no other cause can be found.
The next most common cause of death was aortic dissection, where a part of the heart is weakened and tears, causing blood to leak between the walls of the heart.
Such events can also be triggered by intense exercise and stress, as well as using drugs such as cocaine.
Factors such as genetic conditions and lifestyle such as smoking can also play a role in individual risk.
One limitation of the study the authors acknowledged was that they only looked at deaths related to sexual activity, and not survivors of cardiac arrests relating to sexual activity.
This could mean the true risk of sexual activity and heart conditions could be could be greater.
Charity the British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimate there are 7.6million people living with a heart or circulatory disease in the UK.
British Heart Foundation senior cardiac nurse Ruth Goss told MailOnline that the study was reassuring.
‘Although this is a small and limited study, it’s reassuring that it linked very few deaths from sudden cardiac arrest to sexual activity,’ she said.
Ms Goss added that many people with heart conditions did feel nervous about their sex life
‘It’s normal to feel anxious about sex when you have a heart condition, but it’s no more likely to cause a sudden cardiac arrest than any other type of physical activity,’ she said.
‘There’s no reason why people with a heart condition can’t continue to enjoy a healthy sex life, although it’s important to follow your doctor’s advice.’
She encouraged anyone with a heart condition and worried about their sex life to speak to their specialist medical professional or their GP.
In its guide to sex and heart conditions, the BHF says sex is no more dangerous than other forms of exercises such as walking a mile or climbing a flight of stairs.
But the charity does recommend that heart attack survivors wait two to four weeks before becoming sexually active again.
In a BHF survey of 2,400 people with heart conditions in 2018, nearly half said their condition affected their sex life.
Heart disease is one of the biggest killers of Britons a year with 160,000 deaths each year, the equivalent to one death every three minutes.
And the US Centre for Disease Control estimates 695,000 Americans die from heart disease every year, equivalent to one death every 36 seconds.
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