Intimacy After A Heart Attack

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and whether you adore all the fuss over romantic gestures or write it off as a “Hallmark Holiday,”  February 14 may have you thinking about love and yes, sex.  Older adults living with heart disease may be wondering if sex is even safe?

According to the American Heart Association, sex is safe for most heart disease patients.  Because sexual activity usually only last for a relatively short time, it is rare that a heart attack or chest pains occur as a result of intimacy.  However, those who have suffered severe symptoms should wait until they have been assessed, treated and stabilized before resuming an active sex life.

By completing rehabilitation, getting regular physical activity and taking prescribed medications, the risk of complications due to sexual activity can be reduced.   Be sure to talk with your doctor openly and honestly about your sex life; some medications used to treat erectile disfunction can interact with nitrate therapy used to treat coronary artery disease.  Make sure the same doctor prescribes all medications to avoid a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.  Do not buy these medications through the mail or a different doctor.

It it believed that estrogen used topically or vaginally by post menopausal women is generally safe for those with cardiovascular disease but talk with your doctor if you have any questions.

When sex may not be safe:

  • As a rule, sex is not safe within the first two weeks after a heart attack.
  • If you can’t climb two flights of stairs, you may not be ready to resume sexual activity.
  • You may need to have an exercise test before having sex.
  • If you feel chest pain or pressure, dizziness, nausea, trouble breathing or racing pulse, avoid sex and talk with your doctor.

Stress and worry after a heart attack or other cardiac event may result in disinterest in sex, depression, loss of enjoyment in sex or trouble feeling aroused.  Even though it may not be easy to do, talk with your doctor for advice.  Most symptoms can be managed under the care of a physician.

To learn more about sex and heart disease, you can order a brochure from the American Heart Association through their website at .

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