By Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, Sept. 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- If you've had a heart attack, you don't have to avoid sex for fear of having another one, researchers report.
Many people who've had a heart attack worry that too much physical activity could trigger a repeat event. But after reviewing data collected on 536 heart disease patients between the ages of 30 and 70, the researchers found sexual activity requires about the same amount of exertion as climbing two flights of stairs or taking a brisk walk.
The patients completed questionnaires about their sexual activity. In the months leading up to their heart attack, nearly 15 percent did not have sex during this time, almost 5 percent had sex less than once per month, about 25 percent had sex less than once a week, and 55 percent had sex at least once weekly.
The researchers analyzed the sexual activity the patients experienced in the 12 months before their heart attack and estimated the link between the frequency of their sexual encounters with future events, such as having a fatal heart attack, stroke or cardiovascular death.
During 10 years of follow-up, the researchers found 100 adverse heart events occurred among the patients in the study. Sexual activity, however, was not a risk factor for future problems, the research letter, published Sept. 21 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, revealed.
After evaluating the timing of the last sexual activity before the heart attack, only 0.7 percent of the participants reported sex within an hour before their heart attack. More than 78 percent, however, reported that their last sexual activity occurred more than 24 hours before the heart attack.
"Based on our data, it seems very unlikely that sexual activity is a relevant trigger of heart attack," study author Dr. Dietrich Rothenbacher, chair of the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University in Ulm, Germany, said in a news release from the American College of Cardiology.
"Less than half of men and less than a third of women are getting information about sexual activity after heart attack from their doctors. It is important to reassure patients that they need not be worried and should resume their usual sexual activity," Rothenbacher added.
But the researchers said that various heart drugs could cause sexual side effects, including erectile dysfunction. When used in combination, certain heart drugs and medications used to treat erectile dysfunction can cause a drop in blood pressure. The study authors said that patients should be made aware of these risks.