Some potential sexual partners might promise heart-stopping sex if you slip between the sheets with them, but a new study shows that’s probably not going to happen.

Jokes aside, the risk of sudden cardiac arrest and death is a concern for people with heart disease — including during sex — but the chances are “extremely low,” according to senior study author Sumeet Chugh, MD, medical director of the Heart Rhythm Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 4,500 people who experienced sudden cardiac arrest, or the condition where the heart stops abruptly.

Under one percent of people studied experienced sudden cardiac arrest during (or immediately after) sexual activity, about 34 people out of the 4,500. Most of the incidents — around 94 percent — occurred in men around 60 years old on average, according to the study presented during the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions meeting California on Nov. 12.


Women only accounted for two of the incidents.

Chugh said the results surprised him, but in reality sex isn’t as aerobically challenging as some people believe. A 2011 study by researchers at Harvard found that sex is easier than working out on a treadmill — and the heart rates of the men in the study rarely rose above 130 beats a minute.

That’s about equivalent to walking up two flights of stairs.

Why knowing CPR is important

The more disturbing finding, according to Chugh and his team, was that other people who witnessed the sudden cardiac arrest, like a sexual partner,  only performed potentially life-saving bystander CPR about one-third of the time. Bystander CPR happens when a witness performs CPR until medical personnel arrive — and it can double or triple a victim’s survival rate, according to the American Heart Association.

"It stands to reason that if CPR is learned [and] performed by all sexual partners, there is a good possibility of improving survival,” Chungh added.

So, it’s probably a good idea to sign up for a CPR class before you get into your next relationship.



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