Debunking Myths on Sex & Heart Disease
2/4/2013 11:35:00 AM
It’s American Heart month and of course as women, we should know heart disease is our #1 killer. While knowing our history, health numbers, watching our diet and exercise play a role, we also must debunk myths on what helps and harms our hearts.
That includes sex.
Yep. The three letter word gets a lot of credit for many things - including good exercise. While sex may cause a rise in endorphins (feel good hormones ) or cause your heart rate to go up, don’t throw out your gym membership! According to a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine. sex doesn’t burn nearly as many calories you think. A team of researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham debunked the widely held - and yes, optimistic -myth that having sex burns anywhere from 100 to 300 calories. According to their calculations, a 154-lb man doing the do would burn only about 3.5 calories per minute! You may as well hit the treadmill, right? Or be a turbo class.
But can sex hurt your heart if you have heart disease? We are all familiar with the classic story of a man (or woman) who died while having sex. Fact or myth? From Mother Nature Network we get some insight on the subject:
Less than 1 percent of all heart attacks are triggered by sex, compared to 5 percent that are brought on by heavy physical exertion and 3 percent by anger. A 1996 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association calculated that in healthy individuals without a history of heart disease, the chance of sexual activity causing a heart attack is about two in a million. In a person with a history of prior heart attack, the risk of experiencing another heart attack as a consequence of sex is still extremely low—about twenty in a million. This risk is even lower among heart patients who exercise regularly.
Sex is generally safe for those with coronary heart disease, carrying an extremely low risk of triggering a heart attack. But men with coronary heart disease do need to follow the rules. A German study suggests that when heart attacks do occur during or after sex, they almost always involve older men engaged in extramarital affairs with younger women. The increased excitement associated with unfamiliar partners and different settings may cause greater increases in heart rate and blood pressure, magnifying the cardiovascular risk. For these men, it would have been safer to stay at home, remain faithful to their wives, and burn off excess energy on a treadmill in the basement.
If you’re a heart patient, do you need to see a doctor before doing the deed/? Each year in the United States, more than 1 million people suffer heart attacks. Hundreds of thousands more undergo coronary artery stenting or bypass surgery to treat coronary heart disease. Although they all leave the hospital with a stack of prescriptions, few receive information about the safety (or risk) of sexual activity. A recent study from the University of Chicago demonstrated that after suffering a heart attack, only about half of men and a third of women received discharge instructions regarding sexual activity. In the year following a heart attack, fewer than 40 percent of men and 20 percent of women talked with their doctors about sex. But among those who did, that conversation had an impact— they were 30 to 40 percent more likely to resume sexual activity after the heart attack. Don’t let heart disease kill your sex life. After suffering a heart attack or undergoing a cardiac procedure, ask your doctor about sex. Most people can resume sex as soon as they feel well and can walk up two flights of stairs or do moderate exercise; this is generally a week or two after a heart attack or stent, and about six weeks after heart surgery. But if you experience heart-related symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath, see your doctor before sexual activity.
While many fear that sexual activity could hurt their hearts, recent evidence suggests just the opposite. The Massachusetts Male Aging Study made headlines with the finding that men who had sex at least twice per week were less likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared with those who had sex once a month or less. While this observation does not necessarily mean that sexual activity prevents heart disease, it suggests that sex can be part of a heart-healthy lifestyle.
So whether male or female, take care of your heart by taking care of your body. For help on that, check out my good friends at the American Heart Association by clikcing here.