In fact, only 1 in 100 men and 1 in 1,000 women experience sudden cardiac arrest during sexual activity, according to data published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions. The vast majority were male and were more likely to be middle-aged, African-American and have a history of cardiovascular disease. 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.
Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is when the heart suddenly stops beating; it usually occurs without warning.
The new findings are part of a 16-year study of heart risk factors involving about a million people living in and around Portland.
The experts claimed that despite the myth that sex might cause a heart attack, especially in older men, this is not the case.
Under one percent of people studied experienced sudden cardiac arrest during (or immediately after) sexual activity, about 34 people out of the 4,500.
Scientists did find, however, that certain characteristics seemed to correspond with those who had a heart attack under these circumstances.
The data, recorded from paramedic notes as part of a long-running study on sudden unexpected deaths found more than half of these happened (55 per cent) during sex, while the rest occurred within 15 minutes.
Even though sudden cardiac arrest during sexual activity was witnessed by a partner, CPR was performed in only one-third of the cases.
The researchers noted that sudden cardiac arrest kills more than 300,000 people in the US every year and physical activity, particularly when the person is not accustomed to it, is linked to a higher risk of the condition. Though almost 90 percent of those suffering cardiac arrest out of a hospital die, CPR can double or triple a person's chance of surviving, according the American Heart Association.
About 19 percent of the patients in sex-related cardiac arrest cases survived their ordeal, compared with an average survival rate of around 10 percent nationwide, he said.