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January 2014

When Is It Safe to Have Sex After a Heart Attack?

A heart attack can change everything, even your sex life. You may wonder when you can have sex again or if it's OK to do so. Research reveals many heart attack survivors are unsure about sexual activity. Talking with your doctor can ease your worries.

 

Common concerns

In a recent study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers interviewed a small group of women who had suffered a heart attack. They found many of the women were concerned about the safety of sex. They specifically worried about suffering another heart attack or heart-related symptoms while being intimate.

Past research has documented other common concerns among heart attack survivors. Fatigue can sometimes be a major barrier to sexual activity. After a heart attack, you may not have the energy for daily activities—let alone sex. Depression and anxiety can also dampen the mood. So, too, can sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction.

Unfortunately, those who suffer a heart attack don't always receive guidance on sex. In fact, one recent study of nearly 1,800 heart attack survivors found less than half of men and only one-third of women were given any direction on the subject before leaving the hospital. Those who didn't receive counseling were less likely to resume sexual activity after a heart attack.

Sexual considerations

Despite these concerns, heart attack survivors often resume sexual activity with no problems. Indeed, the American Heart Association says sex is fine as early as 1 week after a heart attack. That's as long as you're in stable condition and can perform moderate physical activity, such as climbing stairs, without any symptoms. Be sure to talk with your doctor first to decide when sex is right for you.

You can also worry less about another heart attack while having sex. The chance is low. Sex usually doesn't last long enough to harm the heart. But tell your doctor right away if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat, or dizziness during sex. These symptoms—along with insomnia and fatigue—can signal worsening heart health.

If you are on medication for a heart condition, don't stop taking it even if you have sexual problems. Instead, talk with your doctor about your symptoms. He or she may be able to change your prescription or give you another drug to help with sexual arousal.

Concerned about life after a heart attack? This article may help. 

Staying Sexually Active With Heart Disease

If heart disease is interfering with your sex life, try these tips:

  • Plan sexual activity when you’re relaxed and well rested. Choose the time of day when you have the most energy.

  • Stay away from alcohol and tobacco. They can impair sexual performance.

  • Exercise regularly. It can strengthen your heart and help you feel better overall.

  • Talk with your partner about any concerns. Being open can foster intimacy and sexual satisfaction.

  • Tell your doctor if you feel depressed or notice side effects from your medication.

Online resources

American Heart Association – Sex and Heart Disease

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – Heart and Vascular Diseases