TUESDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- People who engage in
physical activity only once in a while -- and that includes sex --
have a higher risk of suffering a heart attack or sudden cardiac
death, at least in the one or two hours right after they've exerted
themselves, experts say.
But in another nod for exercise, the more physical activity you
engage in, sexual or otherwise, the more protected you are against
such problems, according to a study in the March 23/30 issue of the
Journal of the American Medical Association.
"The triggering effect appeared to be sharpest for people unaccustomed to physical activity," said study senior author Jessica K. Paulus, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard School of Public Health and an adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology at Tufts Medical Center, in Boston. "The recommendation from our paper is consistent with current guidelines, that those looking to initiate an exercise program, especially those at higher risk, do so very gradually and under the care of a clinician or physician."
Certainly previous studies have looked at this issue, but most
of those had been unable to pinpoint issues of timing, said study
author Dr. Issa J. Dahabreh, a research associate with the Center
for Clinical Evidence Synthesis, Institute for Clinical Research
and Health Policy Studies at Tufts.
This meta-analysis took the weighted average of 14 other studies
to determine that people who engaged in "episodic" sexual activity
had a 2.7 times higher risk for a heart attack while sporadic
physical activity raised the risk 3.5-fold.
Occasional physical activity raised the risk of sudden cardiac
death fivefold, but overall risk was low largely because people
engaged in these activities so infrequently and the risk went away
"The actual incidence is extremely small. You're talking two-to-three events per 10,000 patient-years. That's very, very small," said Dr. Christopher Cove, an associate professor of medicine and assistant director of the cardiac catheterization lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
Also, the study found that each additional time a person
exercised in a week reduced the risk for a heart attack by 45
percent and for sudden cardiac death by 30 percent.
"Exercising regularly is important because it can significantly decrease the risk," Cove added.
But whether or not sporadic physical or sexual activity actually
causes heart problems is difficult to prove as more regular
physical activity "could be a marker for overall good health," said
"It's important to not lose sight of the message that exercise is the fountain of youth. This should not detract from that kind of thinking," said Dr. Robert Ostfeld, associate professor of clinical medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
"The take-home message is that if you have not done much of any physical activity for a long period of time you should not go out and run a marathon tomorrow but build up more gradually, and that [once you've worked up to it] you should only exercise on the days you brush your teeth, which is hopefully every day," Ostfeld advised.
The American Heart Association has more on
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