Sexual activity rarely a heart-stopping activity

Mapping reveals reactions differ in male and female brains during cardiovascular activity

Sexual activity is rarely associated with sudden cardiac arrest, a life-threatening malfunction of the heart’s electrical system causing the heart to suddenly stop beating, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2017, a premier global exchange of the latest advances in cardiovascular science for researchers and clinicians.

To determine whether sexual activity might trigger sudden cardiac arrest, researchers examined records on 4,557 cases of cardiac arrest in adults between 2002 and 2015 in a community in the northwestern United States.

Researchers found:

  • Of the cases examined, 34 cardiac arrests occurred during or within one hour of sexual intercourse.
  • Compared with others who had sudden cardiac arrest, people with an arrest associated with sexual intercourse were more likely to be male (94 percent).
  • One in 100 cases of cardiac arrest in men was associated with sexual activity, compared with one in 1,000 cases in women.
  • Even though sudden cardiac arrest during sexual activity was witnessed by a partner, bystander CPR was performed in only one-third of the cases.

The presence of heart disease and the use of heart medications was common and similar in both groups.

These new data may help inform discussions between healthcare providers and patients on the safety of sexual activity. They also highlight the need to educate the public on the importance of bystander CPR for sudden cardiac arrest, irrespective of the circumstances, researchers said.

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