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Can Sex Trigger Fatal Cardiac Arrest? Study Finds Risk Is 'Extremely Low'

13 November 2017

Patients who experienced sudden cardiac arrest linked to sexual activity had higher rates of ventricular fibrillation - a serious cardiac rhythm disturbance - and tachycardia, a higher-than-normal heart rate.

American scientists from the Institute for the study of the heart in Los Angeles, headed by Samit Chu said that sex can't cause cardiac arrest. Just two of the 34 cardiac arrest patients were female, the findings showed.

Because of the poor outcome of cardiac arrest, many who consider themselves at risk may try to avoid certain activities, such as sex, believing that they render them more exposed.

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It also found that sudden fatal heart attacks among people with a pre-existing heart condition were not significantly more likely to be triggered by sex. It's possible, he said, that men have more underlying risks or that some took risky medications or supplements that did not show up in the study.

The researchers reviewed the medical records of adults from a Northwestern community in the United States between 2002 and 2015.

Research presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2017 contradicts a TV and movie myth that having sex is a common trigger for myocardial infarction or cardiac arrest.

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Only 34 out of the 4,557 cardiac arrests examined occurred during or within one hour of sexual intercourse and 32 of those affected were men. For women, only 0.1 percent of cardiac arrest events were due to sex. Also, African Americans were more exposed than other groups, accounting for 19 percent of SEX-SCA cases. But 94% of those victims had a history of heart disease, NBC News reports.

It is known that sexual activity can trigger heart attacks, but the the link with cardiac arrest was previously unknown.

Still, while these results are reassuring, Dr. Aro and colleagues highlight the necessity of educating the general population about the importance of CPR, as well as knowing how to perform this procedure correctly.

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There's one silver lining for people who have a cardiac arrest from sex - they're nearly twice as likely to survive, Chugh said.

Can Sex Trigger Fatal Cardiac Arrest? Study Finds Risk Is 'Extremely Low'