Many men with heart disease fear that having sex could kill them, but new research shows the danger is slight. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute reported Sunday at an American Heart Association conference that only one in every 100 cases of sudden cardiac arrest in men occurred after sexual activity. But 94% of those victims had a history of heart disease, NBC News reports. The study, to be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was the first to look at whether sexual exertion can trigger a heart attack, notes Live Science. Fear of post-sex heart failure has been bolstered by plot lines on TV shows like Mad Men, but in reality, "the risk is very small," senior author Dr. Sumeet Chugh tells NBC. Chugh's team analyzed 4,557 cardiac arrests that occurred between 2002 and 2015, and found that 34 happened within one hour of sexual intercourse.
Sudden cardiac arrest, which killed Tom Petty, takes place when an electrical impulse goes haywire and the heart stops beating. There are often no warning signs. Still, the danger is far greater for men: Only two of the heart attacks studied involved women. The majority of victims were middle-aged and African-American men, per the BBC. But CPR can make a life-or-death difference. CPR was performed in only one-third of cases studied, prompting Chugh to urge the "importance of (teaching) bystander CPR for sudden cardiac arrest, irrespective of the circumstance." Another study found that children as young as 6 can learn CPR, per the BBC. (A boy with an unusual condition went into cardiac arrest after biting into a hot dog.)