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Sex After Heart Attack – Is it Safe?

Jul 04, 2016

Sex After Heart Attack – Is it Safe?

Lenny had to admit – his heart attack was definitely a wake-up call. He knew he hadn’t been taking good care of himself. And after talking to his doctor, he was committed to making changes. Eating right and following his doctor’s exercise plan were his first priorities.

He was still anxious though. The thought of having another heart attack frightened him. And he wondered what activities could trigger another one. He was in regular contact with his doctor, but one question nagged at him that he was a little embarrassed to ask: What about sex?

His girlfriend Charlene wondered about that, too. She was gentle with him now; they were both afraid that anything too vigorous would send him back to the emergency room. But it wasn’t the same. Before his heart attack, their sexual relationship was intense. Any night with Charlene definitely got his heart rate up – in a good way. Now, they were both scared to go back to the way things used to be.

The good news for Lenny – and for most heart patients – is that sex after a heart attack is usually safe. However, there are still reasons to be concerned, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. Let’s look at some common questions.

How strenuous is sex?

Experts believe that having sex is about as strenuous as taking a brisk walk or climbing two flights of stairs.

After a heart attack, how soon can I have sex again?

Your cardiologist will give you the best answer to this question and you should always ask before resuming sexual activity. The doctor will likely run tests to see how well your heart responds to certain tasks, like climbing stairs, walking at a certain rate, or riding a stationary bike.

Some patients can go back to sex a week afterward. Other doctors recommend that patients wait four to six weeks.

Can sex trigger a heart attack?

It’s unlikely that sex will trigger a heart attack. In 2015, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study that examined this question. In a group of 536 people who had had a heart attack, less than 1% had had sex an hour beforehand. Almost 80% of the patients had not had sex for a full day before their heart attack.

However, research has shown that sex could be more likely to trigger a heart attack in certain scenarios. Sex with an extramarital partner is one example. The stress associated with infidelity could be a concern.

When should I avoid sex?

If you have chest pains, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), uncontrolled high blood pressure, or advanced heart failure, you should ask your doctor if sex is safe for you.

If you have chest pains during sex, stop the sexual activity immediately. Talk to your doctor before having sex again.

If my doctor advises me to restrict sexual activity for a while, what can my partner and I do?

It can be frustrating to hold back on sex because of a heart attack. But that doesn’t mean you and your partner can’t be intimate. You can still kiss, hug, and touch each other. Try giving each other a sensual massage or take a relaxing bath together.

Your doctor might suggest that you have sex less often or tone down the intensity. Try not to be disappointed. Take your time and enjoy being with your partner. Consider this time an opportunity to try new things – maybe new positions or oral sex.

Do I really have to ask my doctor?

Yes. Again, your doctor is the best person to advise you on sex after a heart attack. For many people, talking about sex, especially with a healthcare professional, seems intimidating and awkward. But don’t let that stop you. If your doctor sets limits, it’s important to know exactly what they are. And if you can have sex without restrictions, you might feel less anxious, making sex more enjoyable for both you and your partner.

Resources

American Heart Association

“Sex and Heart Disease”

(Updated: September 16, 2015)

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Sex-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_436414_Article.jsp#.V3Q0wbgrIdV

EverydayHealth.com

Brown, Jennifer, PhD

“Sex After Heart Attack or Stroke: When's the Right Time?”

(July 29, 2013)

http://www.everydayhealth.com/heart-health/sex-after-heart-attack-or-stroke-whens-the-right-time.aspx

International Society for Sexual Medicine

“Is it safe for heart patients to have sex?”

http://www.issm.info/education-for-all/sexual-health-qa/is-it-safe-for-heart-patients-to-have-sex/

LiveScience

Rettner, Rachael

“Sex After a Heart Attack? Here's How and When”

(July 29, 2013)

http://www.livescience.com/38509-heart-attack-safe-sex-guidelines.html

NHS Choices

“When can I have sex again after a heart attack?”

(Page last reviewed: June 30, 2015)

http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/2578.aspx?categoryid=87&subcategoryid=877