Sexual activity may double a person’s chances of having a heart attack immediately or within two hours, Tufts University researchers reported Tuesday.
A session of physical exercise may be even more hazardous, tripling the odds of a heart attack within two hours, the scientists said in the Journal of the American Medical Association after analyzing the results of 14 studies. The risks were smaller for people “with high levels of habitual physical activity,” according to the report.
Sex or exercise increases heart rate and blood pressure, which could contribute to a heart attack or death, said Issa Dahabreh, the lead study author and a research associate at Tufts Medical Center’s Institute for Clinical Research & Health Policy Studies, in Boston. For people who survive the short-term risks, there are long-term benefits from sex and exercising in reducing heart disease, according to the report.
“The real clinical take-home message is that those individuals who are not regularly exercising, if they would like to start initiating a physical activity program, should do so gradually because in our data they appear to be the ones most susceptible to this triggering effect,” said Jessica Paulus, the report’s co-author and an assistant professor at the university’s School of Medicine, in a telephone interview.
For their study, Dahabreh and Paulus analyzed 10 trials that looked at occasional exercise, three that investigated occasional sexual activity and one study that looked at both.
For every 10,000 people who engage in physical activity for an additional hour a week, only 1 or 2 will have additional heart attacks or die during the course of a year, the researchers said.
Patients who were more active physically were less susceptible to heart attacks and death, according to the report. The risk of having a heart attack fell 45 percent for every additional time each week that a person regularly exercised, Dahabreh said.
The report didn’t yield a finding on whether the frequency of sex alone affects the amount of cardiac risk.
“If you’re not active and you try to be active you could be in trouble, whether you climb two flights of stairs or have sex,” said Stephen Green, associate chairman of the Department of Cardiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., in a telephone interview Tuesday. “If you want to do more, you need to do it often.”
Green, who wasn’t an author on Tuesday’s paper, said people who want to become physically active should mimic spring training in baseball, starting slowly. Once someone gets to the desired level of fitness, he or she needs continue the activity often.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” Green said.