Can You Have a Heart Attack During Sex? Here’s What You Need to Know about Sex and Heart Health

As you get older, your body does, too. And when you hit that 50-year mark, you might want to rethink what your body can handle. Experts recommend changing up your diet to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar, and reducing the amount of rigorous exercise you do. (But definitely don’t reduce exercise altogether.) It’s all to keep your heart healthy. And while sex is definitely still possible after 50, it can be an intense workout, which begs the question: Can you have a heart attack during sex? Here’s everything you need to know about sex and your heart.

Close up shot of senior couple holding hand

Can you have a heart attack during sex? | Jacob Ammentorp Lund/iStock/Getty Images

The heart is a muscle that needs daily exercise

Your heart is one of the strongest — and most vital — muscles in your body, and it needs to be worked daily in order to keep it functioning as well as possible. When you’re younger, you might not worry about heart health too much. Intense cardio workouts, such as a five-mile run (or sex), aren’t as much of a concern because your heart is still young. But when you get older, you need to pay more attention to how you take care of this muscle.

According to the American Heart Association, you should be getting about 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, such as taking a walk, for optimal heart health. And yes, sex counts as exercise, too.

But overdoing it with the cardio can be a lot for an older heart to handle

While exercise is important, you don’t want to put too much added stress on your heart from a rigorous cardio workout. And although every couple’s sex is different, some sex can be more heart-intense than others. When Harvard did a study to compare treadmill activity with “average” sexual activity, researchers found that average sexual activity got the heart up to about 130 beats per minute, or 72% of what a treadmill workout would do. This means that for those who might get a little more adventurous, sex can be equivalent to a treadmill workout.

If you don’t take care of your body by exercising regularly, sex can come as a surprise to your heart. Plus, the extra stress and adrenaline that comes with having sex can be more intense on your heart than, say, doing yard work or taking a brisk walk.

Yes, it is possible to have a heart attack during sex

According to Harvard’s research, for a healthy 50-year-old male, the risk of having a heart attack doubles during sex. Heart attacks in general are rare, so this doesn’t mean every time you have sex after 50 you’re risking death. It simply means that when your heart is under that kind of stress or excitement, combined with the physical workout of having sex, it creates an added risk. Other research has found that people (men, specifically) are up to four times more likely to die from a heart attack during sex than at any other time — and this is mostly due to hesitation to call 911.

The best way to have healthy sex is to make sure you’re keeping your heart healthy

Unsurprisingly, having a healthy heart is the best way to prevent a heart attack during intercourse. Especially over 50, what you eat and how much you exercise has a major impact on your heart health. And if it’s any incentive, changing up your diet to include more fruits and vegetables and going for a morning walk every day can help make sex more enjoyable — and less dangerous. Talk to your doctor about your personal risk factors for having a heart attack, and ask if sexual activity is okay. In most cases it is, but your doctor might suggest a few things that can improve your heart health and lower your overall heart attack risk.

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