Smoking After Sex: A Double Heart Attack Risk?

The Bed by Toulouse-LautrecOkay. Now that I have your attention…. Sure, we all know that smoking significantly increases the risk of having a heart attack…but sex? Well a study, published in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looks at this topic, in an article titled, “Association of Episodic Physical and Sexual Activity With Triggering of Acute Cardiac Events“. And it’s a topic that a not insignificant number of readers writing into Angioplasty.Org’s Patient Forum are concerned about.

It’s not exactly a new thought. Back in 2004, we linked to this New York Times article which reported on a 1996 study; it basically came to the same conclusions. But two Tufts researchers looked at 14 studies in the published medical literature and came up with statistical values that put a relative risk number on these activities.

So (drum roll, please…) episodic physical activity increased one’s heart attack risk by 345% — and episodic sexual activity increased it by 270%. Sounds scary, except that the authors emphasize that these risks are actually not high, because they are transient (occurring during or close to the activity) and “because exposure to physical and sexual activity is infrequent.” (This study looked at 55-64 year-olds, so I’m not even gonna go there!) Because of these factors, the researchers also stated that the absolute risk increase for heart attack associated with 1 hour of additional physical or sexual activity per week was estimated as 2 to 3 per 10 000 person-years. Comforting.

The most important finding, however, was that these risks were significantly reduced in people who normally had high levels of habitual physical activity (we would assume that includes sexual activity).

On a serious note, these questions are of real concern to heart patients. Our Patient Forum gets queries like this one last weekend in our topic on “Angioplasty Recovery Period“:

“Delicate subject….How soon after having a stent is it safe for a man to have sex & if another stent is needed in a few weeks, is it safer to wait till after that?” — Broken Hearted, Australia

For Broken-Hearted and other patients, we recommend your cardiologist as the person to ask — he or she has your records and knows your clinical health status and can make recommendations regarding both physical and sexual activity. As the research study states, the better shape you’re in, the less the risk.

For more information from the Tufts researchers, Drs. Issa J. Dahabreh and Jessica K. Paulus, check out the video below, courtesy of JAMA.

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Filed under Clinical Trials / Studies, Heart Attack, Patients

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