Sexual activity is unlikely to increase the risk of a heart attack for individuals who have heart disease, according to a new report published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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Researchers say sexual activity is unlikely to increase heart attack risk for patients with heart disease.

Heart disease patients should not worry about the risks of sexual activity, say the report authors. In fact, sexual activity may count toward the kind of mild aerobic exercise that is a recommended as a way to reduce heart attack risk or to improve recovery after one.

This is because, contrary to perceptions, most sexual activity does not require that much effort.

According to the authors, sexual activity normally involves physical activity that is on par with climbing two staircases or taking a brisk walk.

Until now, the data on the pros and cons of being sexually active for anyone with heart disease had been limited.

The study group was made up of 536 heart disease patients who ranged from 30-70 years of age. Using data gathered from a self-reported questionnaire, the frequency of sexual activity during the 12 months before a heart attack was reported as:

  • None – 14.9%
  • Less than once per month – 4.7%
  • Less than once per week – 25.4%
  • One or more times per week – 55%.

During 10 years of follow-up, the researchers say, there were 100 heart disease-related events among study participants.

Looking at the timing of sexual activity in relation to heart attack, more than 78% reported that their last sexual activity had occurred more than 24 hours before heart attack, with only 0.7% reporting sexual activity within an hour before their heart attack.

Dr. Dietrich Rothenbacher, lead author of the study and professor and chair of the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University in Germany, says:

Based on our data, it seems very unlikely that sexual activity is a relevant trigger of heart attack.”

“It is important to reassure patients that they need not be worried and should resume their usual sexual activity, ” Dr. Rothenbacher adds.

While the benefits of sexual activity outweigh the risks, the researchers warn of the risk of a drop in blood pressure if certain heart and erectile dysfunction medications are taken together. The advice is to check first with the clinician responsible for your care.

In March this year, Medical News Today reported that, when combined, stress and depression may increase the risk of death in heart disease patients.

Written by Jonathan Vernon