Occasional Sexual Activity or Physical Exercise Can
Study sees short-term increase in risk of heart
attack, cardiac death- watch video
March 23, 2011 - When it comes to sex and exercise,
you better do it on a regular basis and this may be especially important
for senior citizens. New research says both activities can trigger a
short-term increased risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death. But,
the risk is low for those who maintain regular physical activity.
Acute cardiac events are a major cause of illness
and death, with as many as a million acute myocardial infarctions (MIs;
heart attacks) and 300,000 cardiac arrests occurring in the United
States each year, according to an article in the March 23/30 issue of
the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
"Regular physical activity has been identified as
strongly associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and
related mortality. Despite the well-established benefits of regular
physical activity, anecdotal evidence has suggested that physical
activity, as well as other acute exposures, such as sexual activity and
psychological stress, can act as triggers of acute cardiac events," the
Issa J. Dahabreh, M.D., of Tufts Medical Center,
Boston, and Jessica K. Paulus, Sc.D., of Tufts University, Medford,
Mass., and the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, conducted a
systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the association between
episodic physical activity and sexual activity and acute cardiac events.
They also looked at the interaction of regular
physical activity levels with the triggering effect of these exposures.
The researchers identified 14 previous studies that examined whether
episodic physical activity and sexual activity can act as a trigger for
The researchers found that overall, the studies
suggested an association (3.5 times increased risk) between episodes of
physical activity and heart attack.
Also, there was evidence of an increase in the risk
of sudden cardiac death (SCD) triggered by episodic physical exertion.
Overall, an event of sexual activity was associated
with a 2.7 times increased risk of heart attack. The authors also found
that because these exposures of episodic physical exertion and sexual
activity are infrequent, the absolute risk of these activities
triggering an event is small.
Subgroups of patients with higher habitual activity
levels tended to be less susceptible to the triggering effect of
episodic physical activity.
Analysis indicated that the relative risk of heart
attack triggered by episodic physical activity was decreased by
approximately 45 percent, and SCD 30 percent, for each additional time
per week a person was habitually exposed to physical activity.
"Habitual activity levels significantly affected
the association of episodic physical activity and MI, episodic physical
activity and SCD, and sexual activity and MI; in all cases, individuals
with lower habitual activity levels had an increased relative risk for
the triggering effect," the authors write.
"In conclusion, based on our review of 14
case-crossover studies of acute cardiac events, we found a significant
association between episodic physical and sexual activity and MI and
suggestive evidence of an association between episodic physical activity
Most importantly, these associations appear to be
strongly modified by habitual physical activity, with individuals with
higher habitual activity levels experiencing much smaller increases in
risk compared with individuals with low activity levels.
In view of this, as well as the small absolute
magnitude of the risk associated with acute exposure to episodic
physical or sexual activity, our findings should not be misinterpreted
as indicating a net harm of physical or sexual activity; instead they
demonstrate that these exposures are associated with a temporary
short-term increase in the risk of acute cardiac events."
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