Death during consensual sex
Death can occur during consensual sex for a number of reasons, generally because of the physical strain of the activity, or because of unusual extenuating circumstances. There are various euphemisms for death during sex, including "dying in the saddle" or the French "la mort d'amour".
Health and physiology
Sexual intimacy, as well as orgasms, increases levels of the hormone oxytocin, also known as "the love hormone", which helps people bond and build trust. Sexual activity is also known as one of many mood repair strategies, which means it can be used to help dissipate feelings of sadness or depression.
A 2011 meta-analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that each additional hour of sexual activity per week resulted in an increased risk of 2-3 myocardial infarctions and one sudden cardiac death per 10,000 person-years. Sexual intercourse can also trigger a subarachnoid hemorrhage via the Valsalva maneuver. A 2011 meta-analysis published in Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men who were unfaithful were significantly more likely than those who were faithful to experience severe or fatal cardiac events during sex. Basilar artery dissection has also been reported in connection with sexual activity, though most coital cephalalgia is benign in nature.
Deaths during consensual sex only account for approximately 0.6% of all sudden deaths. Viagra, although generally considered to be a safe drug, has been linked to sudden cardiovascular death during sexual activity among elderly or otherwise infirm men. The majority of deaths due to cardiovascular causes during sex do occur in males. A number of deaths during consensual sex have been linked to the use of other prescription or recreational drugs, such as cocaine.
The heart condition endothelial dysfunction is a contributing cause to both atherosclerosis and erectile dysfunction. Because of the link between these conditions, rates of coronary heart disease are higher among patients with erectile dysfunction. One treatment for erectile dysfunction is cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, which enable patients to resume having sex despite having a cardiac condition, by lowering blood pressure. These drugs, including sildenafil, inhibit the action of the phosphodiesterase, allowing for a higher concentration of cyclic GMP in the penis when it is physically stimulated. Cyclic GMP is a second messenger in the nitric oxide pathway, responsible for erections via the vasodilating function of nitric oxide. Sudden cardiac death can be caused by myocardial ischemia, and the physical activity of sexual intercourse in patients with coronary artery disease can result in myocardial ischemia. The phosphodiesterase can act as a potentiator for other drugs which lower blood pressure and which could be used to treat heart conditions, and so may be contraindicated to prevent negative health consequences.
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- Pope Leo VIII died on 1 March 965; of a stroke while in the process of adultery.
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- Nelson Rockefeller, former Vice President of the United States and heir to the Rockefeller family fortune, died in 1979 of a heart attack at age 70, rumored to be caused by an orgasm during intercourse with his secretary, Megan Marshack. The unusual circumstances surrounding his death caused New York Magazine to quip, "Nelson thought he was coming, but he was going". Contemporaneous accounts of his death differed greatly and his hasty cremation left the exact cause of death uncertain.
- Japanese writer Isamu Togawa suffered heart failure in 1983 due to his chronic arrhythmia; according to Taro Maki, Togawa died during sexual intercourse at his hotel room. Togawa's younger brother Itaru Kikumura also acknowledged that Togawa died during sex, though this theory was denied by Tsuneo Watanabe.
- Jack McConaughey, father of actor Matthew McConaughey, died of a heart attack in 1992 while having intercourse with his wife, Kim.
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