There is an interesting article in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease about a 35-year-old woman with no known cardiovascular risk factors who suffered a stroke within minutes of having sexual intercourse.
The authors of the article described this situation as “an unusual occurrence.”
The woman was successful with the treatment but it was later revealed that a “defect in the patient’s heart predisposed her to the condition.”
Though the woman may have suffered the stroke during sex, but can we blame the outcome on the activity?
Earlier in August this year, a Physio Instructor, Charles Ababio Affram, in the company of a Consultant Physiotherapist, Dorothy Asamoah, from the Physio Solutions and Rehabilitation Center was on the GTV Breakfast Show.
When he was quizzed about whether one can suffer a stroke during a sexual activity whilst standing, Charles Affram said:
“The body works in such a way that blood flows to the part that is active. When you are standing, blood flow to the legs is higher. So when you are performing sexual activity, blood flow to the penis is also very important. That means that the heart has to pump more for blood to flow to the penis and the legs which can in a way give you stroke.”
He went on to advise the public to practice the missionary style of sex, which according to him, is the “best way to have sex.”
Days after, the Ghana Physiotherapy Association released a statement, debunking the claim.
Charles Affram’s statement that sexual activity whilst standing could cause a stroke is not the first time such a discussion has come up. In May 2022, Hussein Botchway, a Physiotherapist with the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, also cautioned the public against having sex whilst standing.
He said so during an interview on one of Accra’s leading radio stations, Joy FM.
“The positions that we assume during sexual intercourse can lead to conditions like hypertension and stroke. The standing position is not recommended,” an online publication by the news outlet quotes him as saying.
Interestingly, before this recent public talk on the matter, a 2019 article published in the National Library of Medicine established that some Ghanaians hold on to the belief that sexual activity whilst standing can cause a stroke.
“Participants generally believed that sexual activity can cause a stroke. They mentioned that the dynamics through which sex can trigger a stroke include sex positions (i.e. having sex while standing and on the floor), high frequency of sex, having sex when older, and engaging in indiscriminate sex,” the study which was exploring perceptions of Ghanaian local communities on the role of sexual activity on stroke causation.
This only goes to tell the level of controversy in the public domain about the matter.
Can sex cause a stroke?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disorders, diabetes, obesity, and Sickle cell disease are the causes of stroke. The National Health Service of the UK adds smoking and excessive alcohol intake to the list. Johns Hopkins University also makes addition to the causes but missing among such causative factors of stroke, from various sources such as Webmd, National Institutes of Health, and Mayo Clinic is sex.
What has research found so far?
Dr. Jonathan Quartey is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Physiotherapy, University of Ghana. He tells DUBAWA that he has “not come across any studies that have revealed that sex in standing position causes stroke or can lead to hypertension.”
“I think it is just people’s perception,” he added.
“High blood pressure itself can lead to other conditions, of which the major one is cardiovascular accident which is generally referred to as stroke. It may just be that one or two people have come across patients who, when assessments were being performed, may have mentioned that the condition occurred during sexual activity. Even with that, those few cases are not enough to justify that sex whilst standing is a major cause of stroke,” the former President of the Africa Physiotherapist Association continued.
Dr. Quartey added that cardiovascular accidents can happen at any given moment, especially when the individual has underlying conditions such as high blood pressure.
He recounted an incident where a man who was mounting a billboard suffered a stroke. “He suffered it whilst he was up there. His colleagues had to help him come down but he suffered it up there and that is not sex,” Dr. Quartey narrated.
There is yet to be substantive proof from medical science that sexual activity whilst standing causes stroke. Whilst it is possible that some may have suffered the ailment during sexual activity, it is not enough grounds to list it among the causes of stroke.
Stroke can occur at any time – whilst in the gym, playing football, running, etc., especially when you are hypertensive.
Physiotherapists such as Dr. Quartey advise that individuals who are hypertensive “always take their medication and regularly check blood pressure level” to avoid or limit the risk of suffering stroke.