How heart-stopping is sex, really?

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In an earlier article about sex and heart attack, a U.S. cardiologist puts the absolute risk of heart attack for a 50-year-old man who exercises regularly at one chance in a million per hour. In their research, they found that from 4,557 sudden cardiac arrest, around 34 was that which happens within an hour of sex, and 32 of them was men.

"The findings are reassuring", for people with heart disease concerned that sex might be risky, said senior author Sumeet Chugh, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when an electrical impulse goes awry and the heart suddenly stops beating, halting blood flow to the brain and other vital organs.

"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", said Chugh, the study's senior author and a highly respected expert on sudden cardiac arrest.

But overall sexual activity is very unlikely to cause death because of triggering sudden cardiac failure or a heart attack. As the same situation is visualized in a number of dramatic series where an older man can get a heart attack during sex.

It is known that sexual activity can trigger heart attacks, but the the link with cardiac arrest was previously unknown.

There is another lesson though; survival rates after a heart attack are much higher where chest compressions and CPR are started while waiting for an ambulance. Well, the study concludes that there are rare chances that cardiac arrest can trigger someone during sexual intercourse.

Sexual activity was associated in fewer than 1% of the cases. The majority of cases were men who had a previous history of heart diseases.

"Even though SCA during sexual activity was witnessed by a partner, bystander CPR was performed in only one-third of the cases", said Sumeet Chugh, Associate Director at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

"This highlights the importance of continued efforts to educate the public on the importance of CPR, no matter the circumstance", Chugh said.

After a heart attack or surgery, the British Heart Foundation suggests patients should typically wait four to six weeks before resuming sexual activity.