Sex after a heart attack can boost survival chances, research shows.

Scientists believe that as well as the exercise benefit, it makes patients feel virile again – leading them to follow a more healthy lifestyle.

Previous evidence had raised fears the excitement could trigger a repeat heart attack.

But a 22-year follow-up found maintaining or increasing levels of sex in the six months afterwards was linked with a 35% lower risk of death from it.

Study author Prof Yariv Gerber, of Israel’s Tel Aviv University, said: “Sexuality and sexual activity are markers of wellbeing.

Sex cuts the long-term risk of heart-related incidents

“Resumption of sexual activity may be part of one’s self-perception as a healthy, functioning, energetic person and may lead to a healthier lifestyle generally.”

Sex increases both the heart rate and blood pressure – and the sudden vigorous physical exertion can sometimes lead to a heart attack.

But the regular physical activity cuts the long-term risk of heart-related incidents, scientists said.

They looked at 495 heart attack patients from 1992 and 1993, aged 65 or under.

They found 47% had less sex or none at all after their heart attack, while 53% continued as before or had more.

In the 22 years after first being hospitalised, 43% of the patients died – but more in the first group than the second.

Prof Gerber said: “Improved fitness and a mental ability to ‘bounce back’ from the shock may be an explanation.

“On the other hand, patients who perceive their health as poor might be less likely to start having sex again”