Scientists: Sex can't cause cardiac arrest

Only one in three men are given emergency treatment by their lover scientists say

Cardiac patients anxious about the risks of sex to their health can feel comfortable being intimate: the chances of a heart attack from sexual activity are extremely small, according to the results of a new study. The vast majority were male and were more likely to be middle-aged, African-American and have a history of cardiovascular disease. Still, only about 1 percent of men who experience sudden cardiac arrest have it happen during sexual activity, a low number that suggests it is not a great threat.

Sex was linked to only 34 out of more than 4,500 cardiac arrests that occurred in the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area between 2002 and 2015.

"Sexual activity is just one variable in the whole big picture" of cardiac risks, but one that hasn't been studied in depth, Chugh added.

The authors also noted that less than a third of patients who had a heart attack during or just after sex received CPR, despite being with someone else at the time of the attack.

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.

"Performing CPR by bystanders until the ambulance arrives translates to significantly better survival for cardiac arrest", report author Aapo Aro said.

Patients who experienced sudden cardiac arrest linked to sexual activity had higher rates of ventricular fibrillation - a serious cardiac rhythm disturbance - and tachycardia, a higher-than-normal heart rate. Almost 20 percent of people survived in sex-related cases, compared to only about 13 percent survival odds for other patients.

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.

It also found that sudden fatal heart attacks among people with a pre-existing heart condition were not significantly more likely to be triggered by sex.

The research was presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

Researchers said the findings may help inform discussions between doctors and patients on the safety of sexual activity and highlight the need to educate the public on the importance of CPR for sudden cardiac arrest.

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