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Search Health Information    Resuming Sexual Activity After a Heart Attack

Resuming Sexual Activity After a Heart Attack

Topic Overview

When can I have sex again?

Sex is part of a healthy life and part of your quality of life. It is safe for most people after they have had a heart attack.

After a heart attack, you can resume sexual activity when you are healthy and feel ready for it. You could be ready if you can do mild or moderate activity , like brisk walking, without having angina symptoms. Your doctor might tell you that if you can climb two flights of stairs without having any symptoms, you are healthy enough for sex. Or your doctor might want to do an exercise electrocardiogram to check the health of your heart before you have sex again.

Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.

If you had an angioplasty, you'll wait until your incisions heal. If you had a bypass surgery, you'll wait a few weeks to let your chest heal.

What if I'm worried about resuming sex?

Some people are afraid to resume sexual activity after a heart attack. They are worried that they will have symptoms such as chest pain or will not have enough energy for sex. They also worry about having another heart attack.

The risk of having a heart attack during sex is low. Sex is the cause of less than 1 out of 100 heart attacks. 1 This risk is low if you can do moderate activity without having angina symptoms such as chest pain.

Ask your doctor about your risk. He or she can help you know when your heart is healthy enough for the level of activity involved in sex.

Tips for resuming sex

Consider resuming sex gradually. You can start with ways of being intimate that are easy on your heart, like kissing and caressing. When you and your partner decide to start having sexual intercourse again, it might be helpful to keep in mind the following:

  • Talk honestly to your partner about your concerns and feelings. Your partner may have the same worries that you have.
  • Choose a time when you are relaxed and comfortable in a place that will be free from interruptions.
  • Wait 1 to 3 hours after eating a full meal so that digestion can take place.
  • Be aware that anxiety on the part of either partner may interfere with sexual arousal and performance.
  • Stop and rest if you have any angina symptoms. Call 911 if your symptoms do not go away with rest or are not getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin.
  • Tell your doctor if you have angina symptoms during sex.

Sexual problems

For both men and women, a heart problem can cause physical changes that lead to sexual problems. For example, some people have less interest in sex. Men may have erectile dysfunction. Women may have symptoms like vaginal dryness.

If you are having sexual problems, talk with your doctor about what treatments are right for you. Treatments may include counseling or medicine.

Talk with your doctor before trying an erection-enhancing medicine. Some medicines for erection problems can cause serious problems if you also use a nitrate medicine, such as nitroglycerin.

Get help for problems

Tell your doctor about any concerns you have. Counseling might be an option for you and your partner. A doctor, nurse, or other health professional might provide this counseling. It may include information and advice on how to resume sex. It may include support or advice on how to relieve anxiety, worry, or fear about sex. It may include treatment for physical problems. The goal is to enjoy sex again.

References

Citations

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

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.
  • Steinke EE, et al. (2013). Sexual counseling for individuals with cardiovascular disease and their partners: A consensus document from the American Heart Association and the ESC Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professionals (CCNAP). Circulation. Published online July 29, 2013 (doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e31829c2e53).

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Current as of March 12, 2014

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