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Study: Heart-Stopping Sex is Really Rare

A staple of bad fiction fails the reality test

Laughing couple relaxing on bed
A new study finds that instances of killer sex — at least death by cardiac arrest — are far from common.
Sollina Images/Getty Images

It’s a standard plotline in pulp fiction and bad movies: Sex equals cardiac arrest equals death.

A new study paints a different picture: Cardiac arrest fatalities almost never happen during or shortly after sex.

The study, published recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at records of 4,557 sudden cardiac-arrest deaths between 2002 and 2015. The study found only 34 people — 32 of them men — died of cardiac arrest during or within an hour after sex.

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“This is the first study evaluating this particular topic,” cardiologist Sumeet Chugh, the associate director of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, said in a statement. Chugh was the senior study author.

“It’s not that we are preoccupied by sex. It’s just we’ve been looking at everything we can at why this happens and how we can prevent it,” he said. The death rate during or after sex calculates to just 0.7 percent of the cardiac-arrest death cases studied.

Sudden cardiac arrest is a killer: The American Heart Association notes that fewer than 10 percent of the people who experience it outside of a hospital will survive. The study also indicated only about one-third of sexual partners performed CPR on someone who had sudden cardiac arrest, emphasizing the need for people to have CPR training.

"By the time a person has a cardiac arrest and collapses and someone calls 911, the person is destined to die,” Chugh said.

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