New data shows that resuming sexual activity after a person has a heart attack may actually save their life. Resuming or increasing sexual activity after such an episode was actually associated with better long-term survival rates. The findings were published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Previously it has been seen that once a person suffers from heart attack they tend to have decreased sexual activity due to many reasons including fear of triggering another heart attack, depression after heart attack known as cardiac blues or even some physical limitation which may be the consequence of the heart attack.
However, this new research suggests that maintaining or increasing previous levels of sexual activity within 3-6 months of a heart attack can mean better long-term survival rates for people. Not only this, it can mean a 35% lower risk of death.
The health benefits of sex are well established. Sex also plays a vital role in couples overall happiness. In Lovehoney’s Sexual Happiness Study, 49% felt the biggest benefit of sex was strengthening the relationship. To learn more https://t.co/hRHBEHm2aP @Lovehoney_com
— Megan Fleming, PhD (@MeganFlemingPhD) September 18, 2020
The researchers on this study from the Tel Aviv University and Shaare Zedek Medical Center found that people who maintained or increased their sexual activity after a heart attack had a 35% lower risk of death than people who had become less sexually active or given it up altogether. And this had nothing to do with the physical activity level of a person. The scientists found that the association between sexual activity and survival rates still remained, even after taking out factors such as physical activity.
For this study, the team included data from 495 survivors, aged 65 and under, who were hospitalized in 1992-1993 for their first heart attack. The researchers collected data from these individuals within a week of their heart attack about what their sex lives had been like previously, and then again in the first few months following the event.
Among all of these, 53 percent had maintained the level of their sexual activity after 3 to 6 months of a heart attack. The remaining 47% reported either a reduced frequency or complete abstinence. Then these subjects were followed for 22 years in the Israel Study of First Acute Myocardial Infarction. During the course of the study, 211 people died.
The researchers also found that survivors who kept up their normal level of sexual activity tended to be young. These people were also in good health, were less likely to be depressed and belonged to higher socio-economic strata of the society. This group also tended to be men. However, that might not be conclusive as more subjects in the study were men. The interesting thing to note here is that though the leading cause of death for women in the world is cardiovascular disease, most people who die young because of the heart attack are men.
Experts suggest that to examine this particular sex-specific interaction with mortality in patients with history of heart attack, larger and older samples are needed. This was indicated as one limitation of this new study.
According to researchers, people who experienced the long-term survival benefit associated with continued sexual activity were more likely to die from non-cardiovascular (CVD) causes than from heart-related problems. These can include cancer among other health issues.
As to why that might be, Professor Yariv Gerber, working on the study explained, “These patients were hospitalized for a heart attack at a relatively young age, subsequent health care provided to these patients may be more homogeneous and standard for CVD than non-CVD. Also, as patients aged, non-CVD mortality causes were increasingly more prevalent,” he suggests.
So, does this mean that increasing sexual activity after heart attack can help people increase their life span? Well, here Gerber explains that there is a chance of that, but it is not likely. Why?
“Sexuality and sexual activity are markers of well-being. Resumption of sexual activity after an MI (miochardial infarction, or heart attack) is likely an important part of a wider perception of one’s self and general quality of life [and] general better perception of oneself may lead to a healthier lifestyle,” answers Professor Gerber.
As the author of this piece points out "It’s… possible that being sexually active is a sign of better health rather than a cause of it. The study wasn’t designed to determine whether or how sex might help heart attack survivors live longer"https://t.co/3xrmLpCOEJ
— Sharron Hinchliff 💙 (@DrSharronH) September 23, 2020
According to him, these findings can also mean that people can say goodbye to fear of inducing another heart attack due to sex, after the first episode. He also suggests that sex is definitely something that treating cardiologists should be discussing with their patients and targeting for intervention.