Getting older doesn’t mean you have to slowly give up having sex, even if you’ve experienced a heart attack. It’s true — many people are afraid of resuming their sex life after a heart attack, but fortunately a new study says the risk is low. In the study, researchers from Germany say that the benefits outweigh the small risk that is faced by those with heart disease.
“Based on our data, it seems very unlikely that sexual activity is a relevant trigger of heart attack,” study author Dr. Dietrich Rothenbacher, MPH, professor and chair of the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University, said in a press release.
A lot of patients may even worry that the amount of physical activity involved in having sex will trigger another heart attack, so they’re concerned about going back to their normal sexual activities. The authors of the study note that the physical activity involved in having sex is only moderately intense — on par with brisk walking or heavy cleaning.
In the new study, published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers asked 536 heart disease patients between 30 and 70 years old how often they had sex during the year before they had a heart attack. Over half of the patients reported some type of activity at least once a week. Approximately 15 percent of the patients said they didn’t have any sexual activity during the 12 months. The patients recalled this information from memory, which could affect the results.
The patients were followed for 10 years by researchers, after the heart attack. During the time of the study, there were 100 cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart attack, or death due to heart disease. The timing of sexual activity was also examined by researchers. Fewer than one percent of the patients reported having sexual activity within an hour before they had a heart attack. Most of the participants had sex at least 24 hours before they had a heart attack.
The study’s authors concluded that patients don’t need to be concerned about carrying on with their sexual activities — this was after taking into account the physical activity level of the patients and the different risk factors for heart disease. “The results of the study … provide additional evidence that the risk of a myocardial infarction with sexual activity is low. This is consistent with prior studies,” said Elaine Steinke, PhD, a professor in the school of nursing at Wichita State University.