Can Good Sex Be Bad for You?

For older men, good sex can be heartbreaking -- they can literally die from a heart attack as a result of an active sex life.

Can good sex ever really be that bad? Well, if a sexual encounter breaks your heart -- as in literally triggers a cardiac episode and kills you -- then the answer clearly is yes.

A new study by researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Chicago finds that older men who have enjoyable sex more frequently -- the definition of "frequently" for the purposes of this research being once a week or more -- are at higher risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular issues.

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Even though an active sex life can be a health risk for men of a certain age, for older women, good sex has its benefits, lowering the risk of hypertension, the study, published in Journal of Health and Social Behavior, reports.

For their study, the researchers analyzed data collected from 2,204 people ages 57-85 as part of the National Social Life, Health and Aging Project. Two rounds of data were collected, first from 2005-2006 and again five years later.

Sexually active men may lead more stimulating lives, but all of that excitement led them to experience more cardiovascular events than those who didn't have intercourse regularly. In fact, the risk of a heart attack or other episode in the former group was twice as high. Furthermore men who actually enjoyed their sex lives, finding their interactions with their parters pleasurable or satisfying, were even more at risk.

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"Because older men have more difficulties reaching orgasm for medical or emotional reasons than do their younger counterparts, they may exert themselves to a greater degree of exhaustion and create more stress on their cardiovascular system in order to achieve climax," study co-author Hui Liu of Michigan State University said in a statement. Medication used for sexual performance may also play a role.

Regular sex can reduce the cardiovascular risk faced by older women. "However, only women in good quality relationships may acquire such benefits from their partner," Liu added.

Outside of older men, safe, enjoyable sex can have a number of health benefits for everyone. Previous studies have shown that an active sex life can improve immunity, provide stress and pain reflief, and even reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancers.

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In 2010, a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that men over 40 years old who had sex at least twice a week can cut their risk of heart disease nearly in half compared with men who had sex once a month.

So the takeaway here is that there's not anything wrong with healthy sex life, but older men need to be careful to avoid getting too much of a good thing.

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