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Search Health Information    Sex and Your Heart

Sex and Your Heart

Topic Overview

If you have a heart problem, you may worry about having sex. Maybe you're afraid you'll have symptoms, such as chest pain. Or maybe you think that you won't have enough energy for sex. You may even worry that having sex can cause a heart attack.

But sex is actually safe for most heart patients. They don't have any more sex-related heart attacks than other people do.

Sex is exercise

As far as your heart is concerned, having sex is like doing any mild to moderate exercise .

If you can do moderate exercise—like brisk walking—you're probably ready to resume sex. Your doctor might tell you that if you can climb two flights of stairs without having symptoms, such as chest pain, it's fine for you to have sex.

Being physically active—getting regular exercise—can help you build up stamina and make yourself stronger so that sex is more enjoyable.

Some heart patients may have reasons to avoid sex for a while. If you have serious heart problems and have symptoms, like chest pain, when you do anything physical, you probably should avoid sex until treatment stabilizes your symptoms. If you've just had heart surgery, you'll want to make sure that your incision has healed well before resuming sex.

You can ask your doctor to help you know if or when it's okay for you to have sex. If you need help dealing with feelings of worry or fear, you can also try professional counseling.

Erection problems

If you are a man with erection problems, talk to your doctor about what treatments are right for you.

Some medicines for erection problems can cause serious problems if you also use a nitrate medicine, such as nitroglycerin.

How to talk to your doctor

Sometimes doctors are so focused on your disease that they forget to ask about important parts of your life, like sex. You may have to bring up the subject yourself.

It can be hard to talk about sex, even with the person you are closest to. So it can be even harder to bring it up with your doctor. To be successful, try these tips:

  • If you think you will have trouble bringing up sex, practice how you will introduce the subject. You might say something like, "I have some concerns about sex, and I'd like to talk about them today."
  • Before your appointment, make a list of questions to ask your doctor.
  • Be as specific as possible. Tell your doctor what you have tried, what works for you, and what doesn't work.
  • If you have trouble asking the questions directly or you feel rushed, give your list of questions to your doctor. Then ask for another appointment to discuss them.
  • Consider having your partner go with you. For some people, having their partner there makes it easier to talk. And your partner may want to ask questions too.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Levine GN, et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058–1072.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
Last Revised July 10, 2012

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