Along with its obvious pleasures, sexual intercourse poses a definite risk to a man’s health. We have known for some time that the heart works harder to keep pace with the excitement and passion of sexual intercourse. Under normal circumstances, when healthy men have sexual intercourse their heart rate and blood pressure increase. When men with heart disease have sexual intercourse, their damaged hearts cannot always keep pace. Often, men with heart problems can neither muster the pulse increase nor blood pressure elevation their bodies expect. The act of sexual intercourse demands a physiologic response that is sometimes beyond what the damaged heart can supply.

In the pre-Viagra era, for example, men questioned after they had heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) recalled that chest pain was the first clue to their impending heart attack. They can often relate the onset of their chest pain to some physical or emotional stress. Sometimes that stress is physical, like the exertion required to lift a heavy object or shovel snow. Sometimes the physical exertion is the act of sexual intercourse.

· Men who die immediately after having had sexual intercourse (also known as coitus) are said to have experienced a “coital death.” Heart attacks are what kill most men. Occasionally, doctors are curious enough to inquire into the events preceding a man’s fatal heart attack and want to know if he was:

1. Sleeping quietly in bed and never woke up the following morning.
2. Rushing to catch a train when he had chest pain and then collapsed on the rail station platform.
3. Embroiled in a fractious argument with a business colleague or competitor or with a rebellious child, wife, or lover.
4. Lifting weights or shoveling snow.
5. Having sex sometime during the twenty-four hours before he expired. If so, then he would be classified as having had a coital death.

In 1963, thirty-five years before Viagra, we knew that among men who die suddenly very few (0.6 percent) have coital deaths. Some men have their fatal heart attack during or immediately after sexual intercourse. Subsequently, other reports told us that:

Twelve percent of men admitted to the hospital with nonfatal heart attacks will admit that they have had sexual intercourse two to twenty-four hours prior to the onset of their chest pain.
The heart’s response to sexual intercourse has actually been studied in some detail. In the interest of science, some men with known heart disease have agreed to have their pulse, blood pressure, and heart strain measured during sexual intercourse. After being hooked up to wires that record their heart rate and change in cardiogram pattern, they have sex in the privacy of their own bedrooms. The next day, their records are analyzed. The men also keep a log of any cardiac symptoms (chest pain, palpitations, and so on) they might have experienced during sex.

These reports told us that almost one-third (31 percent) of men had cardiogram patterns suggesting heart strain (called coronary ischemia). Only 7 percent had chest pain during sex. The majority (24 percent) of those with heart strain during sex had no discomfort and were classified as having “silent coronary ischemia.”


  1. bazar says:

    I’ve heard about several similar cases where sex lead to death or a heart attack. It could be very much possible that the patient was already ill and the sexual intercourse simply triggered the attack, instead of blaming it on the pill all the time.

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