Doctors agree that sexual activity is not dangerous for the heart. Some even take it a step further, suggesting that frequent sex can even prevent the development of heart disease in the first place. Too good to be true?
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Researchers in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study found that sexual function was correlated with risk of cardiovascular disease in more than 1,000 men. Compared to men in the study who had sex at least two or three times a week, those who had sex only once a month or less had a 45 percent increase in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Certainly, this is a piece of information that you can use in discussions with your wife or significant other. But, medically speaking, it is unlikely that sex prevents heart disease, say Cleveland Clinic heart surgeon Marc Gillinov, MD, and cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD.
What’s a more likely explanation for their findings? A more plausible theory is that men who have frequent sex are generally fitter and healthier to begin with.
“They may also have stronger emotional support systems, which contribute to good health,” according to Drs. Gillinov and Nissen. In short, their active sex lives simply reflect better overall physical and emotional health.
What about men who already have heart disease? Should they shy away from the bedroom? No, research has shown that sex is safe for nearly all heart patients – whether a man has stable coronary heart disease or has had a heart attack, angioplasty, or bypass surgery. Unless you are experiencing severe chest pain or shortness of breath (in which case, you’re probably thinking more about an ER trip than sex), heart disease should not be allowed to kill your sex life.
That said, there is some evidence that one particular situation may increase the risk of heart attack in men with coronary heart disease: engaging in sex in an unfamiliar setting with an unfamiliar partner. Studies suggest that situations that increase excitement, heart rate and blood pressure (above and beyond that with typical sexual exertion) may also increase risk for the heart patient. So, there may indeed be a scientific rationale for marital fidelity.