Is Sex Ex­er­cise?

And is it hard on the heart? Here are your an­swers…

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

‘Sex­er­cise’ is good for the heart

At some time in his life, nearly ev­ery man gets worked up about sex. And as many men get older, they won­der if sex is a good form of ex­er­cise or if it’s too stren­u­ous for the heart. Th­ese ques­tions may sound like locker room ban­ter, but they are ac­tu­ally quite im­por­tant – and they now have solid sci­en­tific an­swers.

Sex as Ex­er­cise

Men seem to spend more en­ergy think­ing and talk­ing about sex than on the act it­self. Dur­ing sexual in­ter­course, a man’s heart rate rarely gets above 130 beats a minute, and his sys­tolic blood pres­sure (the higher num­ber, recorded when the heart is pump­ing blood) nearly al­ways stays un­der 170. All in all, av­er­age sexual ac­tiv­ity ranks as mild to mod­er­ate in terms of ex­er­cise in­ten­sity. Sex burns about five calo­ries a minute; that’s four more than a man uses watch­ing TV, but it’s about the same as walk­ing the course to play golf. If a man can walk up two or three flights of stairs with­out dif­fi­culty, he should be in shape for sex.

Sex as Sex

Rak­ing leaves may in­crease a man’s oxy­gen consumption, but it prob­a­bly won’t get his mo­tor run­ning. Sex, of course, is dif­fer­ent, and the ex­cite­ment and stress might well pump out ex­tra adren­a­line. Both men­tal ex­cite­ment and phys­i­cal ex­er­cise in­crease adren­a­line lev­els and can trig­ger heart at­tacks and ‘ar­rhyth­mias’, ab­nor­mal­i­ties of the heart’s pump­ing rhythm. Can sex do the same? In the­ory, it can. But in prac­tice, it’s re­ally very un­com­mon, at least dur­ing con­ven­tional sex with a fa­mil­iar part­ner. Care­ful stud­ies show that fewer than one of ev­ery 100 heart at­tacks is re­lated to sexual ac­tiv­ity, and for fa­tal ar­rhyth­mias, the rate is just one in 200. Put an­other way, for a healthy 50-year-old man, the risk of hav­ing a heart at­tack in any given hour is about one in a mil­lion; sex dou­bles the risk, but it’s still just two in a mil­lion. For men with heart dis­ease, the risk is 10 times higher – but even for them, the chance of suf­fer­ing a heart at­tack dur­ing sex is just 20 in a mil­lion. Those are pretty good odds.

How about Vi­a­gra?

Un­til re­cently, hu­man bi­ol­ogy has pro­vided un­in­ten­tional (and per­haps un­wanted) pro­tec­tion for men with heart dis­ease. That’s

Dur­ing sexual in­ter­course, a man’s heart rate rarely gets above 130 beats a minute, and his sys­tolic blood pres­sure nearly al­ways stays un­der 170. Av­er­age sexual ac­tiv­ity ranks as mild to mod­er­ate in terms of ex­er­cise in­ten­sity.

be­cause many of the things that cause heart dis­ease, such as smok­ing, di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure, and ab­nor­mal choles­terol lev­els, also cause erec­tile dys­func­tion. The com­mon link is ath­er­o­scle­ro­sis, which can damage ar­ter­ies in the pe­nis as well as in the heart. Silde­nafil (Vi­a­gra), var­de­nafil (Le­vi­tra), and tadalafil (Cialis) have changed that. About 70% of men with erec­tile dys­func­tion (ED) re­spond to the ED pills well enough to

en­able sexual in­ter­course. Sex may be safe for most men with heart dis­ease, but are ED pills a safe way to have sex? For men with sta­ble coro­nary artery dis­ease and well-con­trolled hyper­ten­sion, the an­swer is yes – with one very, very im­por­tant qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Men who are tak­ing ni­trate med­i­ca­tions in any form can­not use ED pills. This re­stric­tion cov­ers all prepa­ra­tions of ni­tro­glyc­erin’, in­clud­ing long-act­ing ni­trates; ni­tro­glyc­erin sprays, patches, and pastes; and amyl ni­trate. For­tu­nately, other treat­ments for erec­tile func­tion – such as the vac­uum pump, al­prostadil in­jec­tions, or ure­thral tablets – are safe for men with heart dis­ease, even if they are us­ing ni­trates.

Safe Sex

Sex is a nor­mal part of hu­man life. For all men, whether they have heart dis­ease or not, the best way to keep sex safe is to stay in shape by avoid­ing to­bacco, ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly, eat­ing a good diet, stay­ing lean, and avoid­ing too much (or too lit­tle) al­co­hol. Need­less to say, men should not ini­ti­ate sexual ac­tiv­ity if they are not feel­ing well, and men who ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble car­diac symp­toms dur­ing sex should in­ter­rupt the sexual ac­tiv­ity at once. With th­ese sim­ple guide­lines and pre­cau­tions, sex is safe for the heart – but it should be safe for the rest of the body, too. Sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease pose a greater threat than sex­u­ally in­duced heart prob­lems. When it comes to sex, men should use their heads as well as their hearts.

Sex is a nor­mal part of hu­man life. For all men, whether they have heart dis­ease or not, the best way to keep sex safe is to stay in shape by avoid­ing to­bacco, ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly, eat­ing a good diet, stay­ing lean, and avoid­ing too much (or too lit­tle) al­co­hol.

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