What Happens To Your Cardiovascular Health When You Stop Having Sex

There are a lot of reasons why you pursue sexual intimacy with a partner. Science will tell you that it's a great way to bond with your significant other and that orgasms can be a form of stress relief. 

On the flip side, not having sex might increase anxious thoughts and create some relational distance. But did you know that when you stop having sex, your heart health might suffer too? Apparently, getting intimate with your partner can lower your blood pressure, strengthen your heart, and even ward off cardiovascular disease. 

According to a 2010 study done on men and published in the American Journal of Cardiology, having sex twice a week or more was linked with a reduced risk of heart disease when compared with subjects who engaged in sexual intercourse once a month or less. Meanwhile, a 2019 study in the journal Sexual Medicine found that sex combined with orgasm the night before could reduce a person's systolic blood pressure (SBP). SPB refers to the amount of pressure on your artery walls when your heart contracts. Interestingly, there is something else that happens to your heart health when you stop having sex. 

Your mental health and sleep could suffer and this can impact your heart

Sex is a great way to unwind and release stress; not having that outlet could negatively impact your mental health and thereby affect your cardiovascular health. Stress can have an inflammatory effect on your body, but being chronically stressed can also lead you to make poor lifestyle choices like eating unhealthy and not exercising. Lying awake at night and worrying over things can affect your sleep too. All of these factors can cause a decline in your heart health. 

Also, according to Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, getting intimate with a partner makes you feel connected to them and can prevent feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. It goes without saying that your mental health is closely tied to your overall health, including your heart health. 

Something happens to your estrogen and testosterone levels too when you stop having sex, and this can affect your heart, according to Dr. Joseph J. Pinzone, CEO and medical director of Amai Wellness (via WebMD). Sexual activity boosts these hormones, but low levels can lead to heart disease and other complications, per Dr. Pinzone. Now that you know some of the surprising ways that your sex life can impact your health, you might be wondering what sex might do to someone with existing cardiovascular issues.

Sex and heart disease: What to consider

It's important to note that, despite its many heart-friendly benefits, regular sex alone is not a good measure of someone's overall health. While it can be considered a mild to moderate form of exercise, it should not replace regular forms of exercise and eating healthy for cardiovascular health. 

That being said, the topic of sex can come up with heart patients or those who've recently undergone heart surgery. Can it cause problems? It depends on the condition of your heart, shared Dr. Helene Glassberg, a consultative cardiologist at Penn Medicine. While unstable high-risk cardiovascular conditions like an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), chest pain (angina), or heart failure would require some level of caution, there's no need to worry otherwise. If you're able to climb a flight of stairs without difficulty, you're good to go in the bedroom. That being said, mechanical limitations (e.g., stents or catheters) would need to be discussed with your healthcare provider. 

The feel-good, depression-fighting hormones that come with sexual intimacy can even benefit someone with heart issues. A 2020 study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that resuming sexual activity within the first three months after myocardial infarction or MI (heart attack) was linked with better long-term survival. At the end of the day, a healthy sex life can benefit everyone, but if you are concerned about your time in the bedroom and what it might do to your heart, run those questions by your doctor.