According to a recent study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, having intercourse after a heart attack may boost survival. “Sexuality and sexual activity are the markers of well-being,” said the lead researcher.
Data was analyzed from 500 sexually active people with a median age of 53 years old who were 90% male and hospitalized for heart attack in 1992 or 1993. Based on the data, during the following 22 years, 43% of the patients died, but those who maintained or increased sexual activity during the first 6 months of recovery were found to have had a 35% lower risk of death compared to those who abstained. According to the researchers, they found an apparent association between sexual activity and a reduction in non-cardiovascular mortality.
“Sexuality and sexual activity are the markers of well-being,” said Yariv Gerber, lead researcher and head of the School of Public Health at Tel Aviv University “Resumption of sexual activity soon after a heart attack may be a part of one’s self-perception as a healthy, functioning, young and energetic person. This may lead to a healthier lifestyle generally.”
Sexual activity was noted to be a form of physical exercise and has been shown to increase heart rate and blood pressure, and although it may sound like a potential trigger for heart attack regular physical activity reduces the long-term risk of adverse heart-related outcomes, according to the researchers.
“Improved physical fitness, stronger spouse relations, and a mental ability to ‘bounce back’ from the initial shock of the event within a few months are among the possible explanations for the survival benefit observed among the maintained/increased group,” says Gerber.“On the other hand, patients who perceive their health as poor might be less likely to start having sex again. They may also be less likely to adhere to cancer screening tests and other prevention practices during follow-up. This may explain the strong inverse association between [the] resumption of sexual activity and cancer mortality that was seen in our study.”
The authors noted that although the study does not show that having sex after a heart attack will improve long term survival, it does show an apparent association. The authors also acknowledged that the data does not properly represent women or older people, but the findings should help to reduce some of the anxiety surrounding sexual activity and heart attack recovery.
“Numerous physical and psychosocial health parameters are required for maintaining regular sexual activity,” Gerber said. “In light of this, the net benefit of sexual activity itself is still a matter of debate.”