Sex unlikely to cause a stroke and may reduce risk of sudden death

Middle aged men should be heartened to know that frequent sex is not likely to increase their risk of stroke. It may actually reduce the risk of sudden death, suggests research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The Caerphilly study, which takes its name from a former mining town in South Wales, involves tracking the development of heart disease in almost 3000 men. All were aged between 45 and 59 when recruited to the study between 1979 and 1983.

Just under 1000 men, who have been monitored for 20 years, answered questions about their levels of sexual activity. All deaths from stroke during that period were recorded. Around one in five men said they had sex less than once a month; one in four said they had sex twice or more a week. Just over half reported a frequency somewhere in between.

During the monitoring period, 65 men had a stroke, and in 26 this was fatal. Although the chances of a stroke were slightly lower among men having sex the least often, there was no clear evidence of increased risk with greater frequency. Stroke tended to be more common among men who did not answer the questions about sexual activity.

Sudden death from heart disease was also more common in those reporting low to moderate levels of sexual activity. And after 10 years this risk was twice as high, although it had subsided by 20 years.

The absence of any clear link between frequency of sex and the risk of stroke is reassuring, say the authors. On the basis of current evidence, assuming a lifetime average of sex once a week over 50 years, only one in 580 men might die as a result of the exertions of sex.

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