What Does Sex Do To Your Heart?

We know sex is exciting. But find out what it does to the heart and the hormones it releases in to the body. It makes a big impact on overall health.

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sex and heart health, illustration of a woman biting her lips

The sinful way to a healthier heart

Most people don’t exactly associate physical exercise with the idea of fun. When they think of sport, they think of sweat and slog, pounding the pavement every day through wind and rain, and immediately lose any spark of motivation they might have had. It can be a challenge to break down that mental barricade. But I think I’ve found an alternative — and it’s called sex! Of course, this can also bring you out in a sweat, but almost everyone in the world is wild about it nonetheless. And the best thing is: every time we jump in the sack together, we are doing our health a huge favor. This means, the more often you do it, the better!

Frequent sex is in fact an excellent way to combine stress-reducing effects with physical exercise, and to have a lot of fun in the process. Furthermore, the hormones produced by our bodies when we have sex protect us from all sorts of illnesses and diseases. Indeed, one academic study showed sexually active people have a significantly lower risk of suffering a heart attack than the more sexually abstemious. Those hormones begin to flow even at the first tender touch, and increase to become a real hormonal reworks display when we reach orgasm, which sends more than 50 different chemical messenger substances coursing through our veins. So, let’s take a look at some of the most important ones.

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sex and heart health oxytocin, a couple kissing

Oxytocin: The Cuddle Hormone

Oxytocin is one of the most fascinating substances our body’s chemical factory has to offer. It is not only produced by women as their bodies prepare for childbirth and during breastfeeding, in which instances it was first discovered; its release is also triggered by feelings of love. This has led to its becoming known as "the cuddle hormone" or "the love drug." Once it is released into the bloodstream, oxytocin attaches to special receptors in the walls of various cells, depending on what kind of tissue those cells are part of. This means the hormone can have a range of different effects. It increases our inclination to trust others and thus improves our social skills, so to speak. It seems that it really does turn us into nicer people. And healthier ones, too, since oxytocin has also been proven to promote the healing of wounds and to lower blood pressure. It’s a great all-rounder, known to have a calming effect and reduce stress. Ideally as a result of good sex.

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sex and heart health, a dialogue bubble with the word wow!

Adrenaline: The Stimulator

There stands that person, the object of your desires. There’s chemistry between you, and you’re totally energized. Your heart begins to beat harder and faster, you are charged with energy, nothing and no one can stop you now. The cause of all these feelings is adrenaline, a stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands, which triggers a fight-or-flight response in us within a fraction of a second.

Adrenaline causes the bronchial tubes to expand so that we can breathe better; it causes the pupils to widen so that we can see better; it increases our breathing rate and our blood pressure; and from one second to the next, it causes a healthy heart to beat harder and faster — during sex up to a rate of 120 beats per minute. For our cardiovascular system, this is like a fitness machine inside our own body. Moreover, this stimulant increases our blood-sugar level, giving us more energy.

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sex and heart health, an injured hand giving the okay sign

Endorphin: The Painkiller

Endorphin could be described as the junkie among the hormones released during sex. Even its name makes this clear, being made up from the words ‘endogenous morphine’ (that is, morphine produced within our own body). Endorphin is well known to be an extremely effective painkiller. It inhibits the transmission of pain signals and helps us sleep better. Our bodies produce it in great quantities whenever we laugh, eat something delicious, or engage in strenuous physical exercise. And, of course, when we have sex. Which goes some way towards explaining why people — in particular, men — tend to drift happily off to sleep soon after the act is done.

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sex and heart health, an image of a woman biting her lip and her sunglasses almost falling off

Serotonin: The Happy Hormone

Serotonin is the supreme happy hormone. It makes us feel pleasantly relaxed and content. It also bolsters our immune system, strengthening our body’s defenses against disease. When we are under the influence of serotonin, we feel peaceable and tend to see the world ‘through rose-tinted glasses’… Serotonin is also instrumental in producing the feelings of happiness associated with sex. And it helps wounds to heal by causing smaller blood vessels to contract, reducing blood loss. So being happy isn’t just positive in itself, it also makes us healthier. If that’s not a win-win situation, I don’t know what is!

Bedroom sport provides a great way to combine physical exertion with stress-reducing effects while protecting our bodies by means of the hormones that sexual intercourse releases inside us. This hormonal cocktail is even more effective if we actually love our sexual partner. For example, sex without genuine affection triggers far lower levels of oxytocin release. The best advice, then, is not only to have sex, but also to ‘make love’ in the truest sense of the phrase.

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sex and heart health, heart book cover

Well, what are you waiting for? Go to bed!

Excerpted from Heart: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Heroic Organ by Johannes Hinrich von Borstel, published June 2017 by Greystone Books. Reproduced and adapted with permission from the publisher. $20 at amazon.ca.