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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 23:14 GMT 00:14 UK
Sex 'increases heart risk'
Scientists have come up with proof that having sex can - literally - be heart-stopping.

They found that making love could trigger a heart attack in people who were vulnerable to heart disease.

Sex is recognised as a good form of exercise

British Heart Foundation
But the good news is that the risk is small - provided other forms of exercise are taken regularly.

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, studied over 650 people admitted to hospital with their first heart attack between 1993 and 1994.

Over three quarters were men. Half were aged between 45 and 60 and around three quarters were married.

Shortly after recovery, the volunteers were questioned about their symptoms and about what they did in the four days leading up to the heart attack.

If they had had sex, they were also asked how many times and how long it had lasted.

Sex timing

They were also asked general questions about the frequency and timing of sex.

The researchers calculated that those who had had sex were twice as likely to have had a heart attack an hour later than those who had not had sex.

But those who took little or no exercise were four times more likely to have a heart attack an hour later.

However, the researchers found that overall the risk of having a heart attack after sex was very low.

They concluded that sex once a week posed only minimal risk and that doctors should encourage heart patients not to abstain from sex for fear of triggering a heart attack.

A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation told BBC News Online: "There is much evidence showing that exercise is an effective part of rehabilitation for those with heart disease - and sex is recognised as a good form of exercise.

"This research suggests there may be a slight increase in the risk of having a heart attack for several hours after sexual activity.

"However, this small study does not take into account other lifestyle factors that may have influenced an individual's risk of having a heart attack - such as smoking."

Part of life

The spokesman said there was no reason why sex should not become an integral part of life after a heart attack.

"Patients can build up to sexual activity by going for brisk walks or swimming as this will help with their confidence.

"A good indicator of fitness for sexual activity is to try two flights of stairs, or if you can walk on the flat for 300 yards without getting chest pains or shortness of breath," he said.

The research is published in the journal Heart.

See also:

13 Sep 01 | Health
Old-age 'tsar' promotes sex
26 Jun 01 | Health
Sex a turn-off for many UK women
07 Jun 01 | Health
Cuddles 'more important than sex'
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