Whether you’re recovering from a recent heart attack or one that occurred years ago, the thought of being intimate post-heart attack may spur anxiety. One of the main concerns people have is whether sex will lead to another heart attack.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), for those with cardiovascular disease, having sex is usually safe, as long as the disease is stabilized. Making sure that heart disease is under control involves working with your doctor on a treatment plan to improve cardiovascular symptoms.
The AHA guidelines suggest that patients who are able to engage in mild to moderate exercise without experiencing symptoms, such as shortness of breath or chest pain, are most likely able to engage in sexual activity.
“By having a better sense of their heart health, patients may gain more confidence in their ability to be intimate with their partner,” says Dr. Bryant Nguyen, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “Patients may want to work with their doctor to assess their cardiovascular fitness, such as with an exercise stress test, as well as design a treatment plan to help them safely return to a level of stable physical activity.”
Fit for sex
Some medical evidence suggests that engaging in regular physical activity after a heart attack may reduce the risk of complications associated with sex. The AHA guidelines cite a Swedish study of post-heart attack patients, which found that those who had sedentary lifestyles were at higher risk for another heart attack occurring with sexual activity compared to those who led active lifestyles. Moreover, participating in cardiac rehabilitation programs may help patients regain physical fitness so that they are healthy enough for sex.
“A cardiovascular rehab program can help restore heart health after a cardiovascular event,” says Dr. Nguyen. “Rehab specialists can also provide tips on improving diet, as well as managing cholesterol and blood pressure, in order to minimize risk of another heart attack.”
Problems in the bedroom
For those who survived a heart attack and are sexually active, problems may still exist in the bedroom. A recent study published in JAMA Cardiology noted that of the more than 2,800 participants researchers analyzed, those that had a heart attack said that the most common intimacy issues they faced were lack of interest, trouble lubricating (for women) and erection problems (for men).
“These sexual function issues can be due to a number of things ranging from psychological, emotional to biological concerns,” says Dr. Nguyen. “For those with cardiovascular disease dealing with intimacy issues, discussing these concerns with your doctor may help. A doctor can provide guidance, whether through counseling, medications or other approaches, so that you can enjoy life and relationships post-heart attack.”