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Can Sex Cause a Heart Attack?

The answer is yes — but the risk is far below what you think

You might not think of Keanu Reeves as the world's most reliable source of medical advice, but in this case his counsel was correct. Sex is not strenuous. Even orgasm is rarely physically taxing. By and large, a few months after a heart attack, if you can comfortably ascend a flight or two of stairs, you can return to having sex. Here's how:

Follow your doctor's advice. Your individual situation might make sex inadvisable; this may apply if, for example, you also have moderate to severe congestive heart failure. After a few months, however, the vast majority of heart attack survivors can make love without fearing a recurrence.

Adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle. It's never too late to quit smoking, get daily moderate exercise, lose weight, manage stress, control your blood pressure and cholesterol, eat less meat and cheese (and more fruits and vegetables), or spend more time with those you love. In addition to helping the heart, these steps boost libido — and erections.

Make love regularly. You probably saw this coming when I mentioned the Tufts study above, but sex can help you manage stress. It's gentle exercise that strengthens the heart. And assuming you're in a loving relationship, it is emotionally supportive.

Could all this explain why so many people call their lovers "sweetheart"?

Longtime sexuality journalist Michael Castleman answers sex questions for free at

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