How Does Sex Affect the Heart?

Patient Expert
Medically Reviewed
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I must admit, this article's title could be misleading. You may have clicked on the link thinking the article was about love, affection, and sentiment. But actually, today’s focus is on how sex impacts the cardiovascular system. Check out the facts below about sex and the heart.

True or false: One session of sex can burn the same amount of calories as 30 minutes of exercise.

FALSE: People who engage in physical activity can lower their risk of heart disease, and sex surely is a form of physical activity, but the belief that a typical session of sexual intercourse is equivalent to a traditional workout is false. According to a multinational survey of 500 couples, the median time of sex was about 5 minutes from start to finish. One 2013 study found that men burn about 4 calories per minute during sex, while women burn about 3 calories per minute. So if a 5-minute sex session burns about 20 calories, that's not enough to take the place of a typical 30-minute workout. For comparison, 30 minutes of brisk walking burns 140 calories.

True or false: A person’s blood pressure decreases during sex.

FALSE: Blood pressure is the force of blood in one’s cardiovascular system. Rather than decreasing due to sex, blood pressure will actually increase slightly for a short period of time after intercourse before returning to its normal level.

True or false: Problems with the cardiovascular system can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED).

TRUE: A variety of factors can cause ED, including mental, hormonal, and physical issues. ED occurs when blood flow to the penis is lacking and a man is unable to maintain an erection. Cardiovascular issues can absolutely cause ED. For example, according to the American Heart Association, atherosclerosis, a cardiovascular condition that can lead to narrowing of the blood vessels, can slow blood flow throughout the body — including to the penis.

True or false: Up to 300,000 people experience chest pain after sex.

TRUE: Angina pectoris is a form of coronary artery disease involving reduced blood flow to the heart. It’s usually accompanied by chest pain and shortness of breath. According to an article from the American Medical Association, more than 6 million people in the U.S. have angina pectoris, 5 percent of which report feeling symptoms shortly after sex. If you have chest pain afer sex, and it does not go away after 5 minutes of rest, call 9-1-1 right away, the National Institutes of Health says.

True or false: Viagra was originally a drug for men with high blood pressure, not for erectile dysfunction.

TRUE: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration initially approved the little blue pill for high blood pressure and angina pectoris. During clinical trials, it was discovered that the drug is effective for erectile dysfunction because it increases blood flow to the penis when a man is sexually stimulated.

True or false: Having infrequent sex may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in men.

TRUE: Here is a great excuse to have more sex: A 2010 study in the American Journal of Cardiology found that men who had sex once a month or less were more likely to suffer from heart disease, while men who engaged in sex at least twice a week had lower risk.