Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Health Center

Font Size

Exercise, Sex Can Boost Heart Attack Risk Slightly

Risk Very Low for Regular Exercisers, Experts Say
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 22, 2011 -- A new analysis finds that both physical and sexual activity may boost heart attack risk, but for most people, the increased risk is slight and fleeting. For regular exercisers, the risk is even lower.

"Physical activity and sexual activity are triggers of heart attack and sudden death, but that risk occurs over a very short period of time, on the order of one to two hours, during and after the activity," says researcher Jessica Paulus, ScD, assistant professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard University School of Public Health.

Her co-researcher, Issa Dahabreh, MD, a research associate at Tufts Medical Center, puts the risk in perspective. "If 10,000 people increased their physical activity or sexual activity by one hour per week, you would expect two or three additional heart attacks or sudden cardiac deaths [in that group] per year," he says.

That risk estimate doesn't take into account the benefits of exercise, he says, and applies to people about 50 to 64.

The new analysis is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Looking for Links Between Exercise, Sex, and Heart Attack

The researchers scanned the medical literature for studies that looked at the link between exercise, sex, and heart attack or sudden cardiac death.

They found 10 studies that looked at physical activity, three that focused on sexual activity, and one that looked at both. The studies compared the risk of heart attacks and sudden death when participants were either exercising or having sex to times when they were not.

They pooled the results hoping to get stronger statistics. They wanted to see if they could identify a pattern not seen in the smaller studies.

Overall, the researchers found:

  • Exercising boosted heart attack risk 3.5 times. It increased risk of cardiac death nearly five times.
  • Having sex increased heart attack risk 2.7 times. No statistic is available for the link between sex and sudden cardiac death risk.

While the increase in risk may seem high, the researchers say, the actual chance of the heart problem happening is still low because the initial risk is low.

Today on WebMD

hdl letters stacked up
How to boost your ‘good’ cholesterol.
Learn the causes.
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
heart rate
What’s normal? What’s not?
Lower Cholesterol 02
Heart Foods Slideshow
Compressed heart
doctor looking at xrays
Heart Disease And Ed
Lowering Cholesterol Slideshow
lowering blood pressure
Wide Awake For Heart Surgery