SEX
September 23, 2015

Safe Sex, The Cardio Version

If you've had heart problems you may be worried about becoming sexually active again. Here's some reassurance.

It's understandable that heart patients are a little worried about resuming their sex lives after a heart attack. But, actually, it's okay for most heart patients to have sex. More than okay, in fact.

“Less than half of men and less than a third of women are getting information about sexual activity after heart attack from their doctors. It is important to reassure patients that they need not be worried and should resume their usual sexual activity,” the lead author of a new study that looked at the connection between having sex and heart attacks said in a statement.

For most heart patients, sex is just another form of exercise, like climbing two flights of stairs or taking a brisk walk.

According to the researcher, Dietrich Rothenbacher, a professor at Ulm University, there isn't much of a connection. But many heart patients still worry and their doctors haven't set them straight. Perhaps it's time for them to put sex back on the menu.

Rothenbacher's study looked at over 500 patients, ages 30 to 70, with heart disease. In 10 years of follow-up, there was no indication that sexual activity was a risk factor for any cardiovascular event, including a heart attack. For those who did have a heart attack during the 10 years of follow-up, less than 1 in 140 reported having sex within an hour of the heart attack. Over 78% hadn't had sex in the 24 hours leading up to the heart attack. This and other data indicate that sex is highly unlikely to trigger a heart attack.

The American Heart Association (AHA) agrees that most people with heart disease can safely engage in sexual activity. They offer a brochure on sex and heart disease in their heart attack information packet.

Heart disease can create some special problems when it comes to sex. Certain heart medications can cause erectile dysfunction. And taking that little blue pill when you're already taking nitrates for your heart is extremely dangerous. But for most heart patients, sex is just another form of exercise, like climbing two flights of stairs or taking a brisk walk. Why climb stairs when you could be having sex?

If you do have a heart problem and your doctor hasn't talked to you about how this affects your sex life, you'll just have to bring the topic up yourself. If embarrassment is a problem, think back to your first date, which thankfully isn't posted on YouTube. It may have been embarrassing, but imagine your life if you had never had it.

It just might be time to break out the champagne…and the candles.

The research letter appears in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
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