Despite what you’ve seen on shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey, a letter published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology wants to make one thing clear: Sex doesn’t increase your risk of getting a heart attack. And, if you’ve already survived one, it’s probably better to resume sexual activity than go celibate.
Sex-induced heart attacks seem to make sense on screen. In the heat of the moment, flanked by a pair of hot twins, how could Mad Men’s Roger Sterling not go into cardiac arrest? But the reality of sex is that it’s not that strenuous. On average, it’s pretty much comparable to climbing two staircases or taking a brisk walk, according to the researchers.
They found that 14.9 percent of patients reportedly had no sex in the year leading up to their heart attack, while 4.7 percent had sex less than once per month, 25.4 percent had sex less than once a week, and 55 percent had sex one or more times a week. Taking 10 years of follow-up data into account, sex simply wasn’t a risk factor for subsequent heart attacks.
Timing didn’t seem to play much of a role, either. Just 0.7 of the participants reported having sex within the hour leading up to their heart attack. The overwhelming majority of participants — more than 78 percent of people — had last engaged in sexual activity over 24 hours before they had a heart attack.
“It is important to reassure patients that they need not be worried and should resume their usual sexual activity,” said Dietrich Rothenbacher, lead author and chair of the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University, in a press release.