Exercise and Sex Can Increase Heart Attack Risk – Mainly if You Don’t Do Either Enough!

By Emily Murray

Whenever a headline has the scary words “heart attack” in them, people take notice. One that particularly caught my eye this morning was featured in TIME Healthland – “Infrequent Sex or Exercise Can Trigger Heart Attacks.” But don’t panic just yet, you don’t need to give up either of these things…in fact, doing both more regularly helps minimize the risk!

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association added another dimension to the understanding we have about increased activity and heart attack risk.  For some time now doctors (and out of shape exercisers alike) have realized that any activity which increases heart rate ups the likelihood of a heart attack. Now, in light of the new study, we know that this risk remains elevated during the hour after exertion. In fact, the study proved that in some people this risk can actually be 3.5 times higher during this time period after activity than when they are not active. To break this down further, during sex specifically, the risk is on average 2.7 times higher than any normal period of inactivity. General physical activity increases the rate of death resulting from heart attack by nearly 5 times.

Sounds terrible right? Well here is a comment from the study’s author Dr. Issa Dahabreh as reported in the TIME article to help put your mind at ease. “We don’t want anyone to misinterpret our findings to mean there is an overall harm from exercise.” To further explain what this means, it’s important to note that exercise isn’t necessarily the cause, it’s when there is a sudden increase in activity. The more you work out and are active, the less of a shock it becomes on the body. He also suggests that people identify what their “triggers” are, or the activities that immediately get the heart racing.

The short-term risks of the immediate exercise (when done as part of a normal routine) actually are believed to be overridden by the overall long-term positive impact of maintaining a consistent workout schedule. In summary, those of you who thought this might give you a free pass to skip working out… no such luck! If you believe that you live a fairly inactive lifestyle however, don’t jump right into a rigorous routine. It’s best to return back to activities at a moderate pace rather than jumping back into the gym…or the bedroom for that matter!

If you have limited mobility, returning to a moderate level of activity for your lifestyle may be as simple as taking a daily walk or climbing the stairs. However for some individuals even these seemingly low impact activities can be enough to elevate the heart attack risk and for this reason a doctor should be part of developing a workout plan that is safe for your particular situation.

Now on to the part that probably initially caught your attention. Whether you think of it as such, sex is a strenuous activity for your heart and if you have heart problems this is likely a subject your should broach with your doctor. If your heart is healthy enough for sex and other exercise, you will be happy to know that studies prove a healthy sex life is good for not only your relationship (and your heart in moderation), but for your mental well being too!