Can Sexual Activity Cause a Stroke?

Strokes are generally caused by ongoing health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and others. It is very rare for a specific activity, like sexual activity, to trigger a stroke. However, it is possible for a stroke to occur as a result of sex.

This article discusses the research and prevalence of strokes during and after sex, as well as other risk factors for stroke.

man and woman in bed
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Sex as a Stroke Trigger

Overall, it is quite unusual for someone to experience a stroke during sexual activity. In fact, it is rare for a stroke to be provoked by any immediate trigger. The vast majority of the time, a stroke is the result of a build-up of long-term health problems such as smoking, high blood pressure, elevated fat and cholesterol levels, poorly controlled diabetes, blood clotting abnormalities, and heart disease.

However, there have been documented instances of a stroke occurring during or shortly after sexual activity. The case reports in the medical literature that describes stroke happening during or within 2 hours after sexual activity interestingly points to a higher likelihood of sex-related stroke in the context of extramarital relationships.

It has also been noted that extramarital sexual activity increases the risk of stroke-related death. Whether this is due to an increased stroke rate associated with emotional or psychological factors related to extramarital sexual activity, or to a reluctance to call for urgent medical attention is not clear.

How Often Does a Stroke Occur During Sexual Activity?

It is probably impossible to obtain entirely accurate data about this question. In general, people are less likely to admit that a stroke occurred during sexual activity than they are to report that a stroke occurred during another less private activity, such as driving or jogging.

A scientific article published in the February 2015 issue of the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease evaluated 290 patients who were diagnosed with stroke and reported that only 5 of the patients specified sexual activity as a triggering event. This relatively low number is consistent with the previous research on the triggering events associated with stroke.

Warning Signs and Risk Factors for Stroke

People who experience a stroke during or within a few hours of sexual activity generally experience certain warning signs weeks or even months ahead of time. One of the most common warning signs is a thunderclap headache. A thunderclap headache is a sudden, severe, explosive and excruciating headache.

If you ever experience a thunderclap headache or any variation of a severe headache during sexual activity, you need to call your healthcare provider, who will perform a thorough medical evaluation. Some people who experience a thunderclap headache during sex do not go on to suffer from a stroke, but about 30-50% are at risk of having an ischemic stroke.

Brain Aneurysm

Sexual activity is also a risk factor for those who have a brain aneurysm, which is a type of abnormally shaped blood vessel in the brain. A brain aneurysm may leak or rupture, triggering a hemorrhagic stroke.


It does not appear that older age is necessarily a risk factor for a stroke caused by sex. It has been reported that young people without the typical stroke risk factors have been among those who experience a stroke during sexual intercourse.

Blood clotting disorders, serious inborn heart defects, brain aneurysms, contraceptive use, and a smoking history seem to play a role in these rare situations.

Drug Use

Recreational drug use has been associated with stroke during or after sexual activity. The use of herbal substances to enhance sexual function has also been linked with strokes.

What to Do If You Have Symptoms

If you ever experience headaches, dizziness or any neurological symptoms during or after sexual activity, you should have a medical evaluation right away. If your partner has symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, vision changes, slurred speech, weakness or confusion during or after sexual activity, it is vital for you to make sure your partner receives urgent medical attention right away.

Ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke are uncommon during sexual intercourse but are more likely to occur if you or your partner experiences these neurological warning signs.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.