Heart Failure and Sex
Can someone still have sex after heart failure is diagnosed?
Try not to feel embarrassed about raising this question with your physician or other healthcare providers. They've heard it before. Feelings like stress, anxiety and depression are natural after a serious health diagnosis and often cause a loss of interest. Concern over loss of sexual function may so occupy a patient’s mind that bizarre behaviors can sometimes occur.
I did have a patient who after a heart attack wanted to have intercourse with his “lover” (his term not mine) to prove he was “still a man” while monitored in the Coronary Care Unit right after his heart attack. While I did dissuade him from this “early stress test,” I explained to him that most people with heart failure can continue sexual relations once symptoms are under control.
Do discuss any concern with the doctor who made the diagnosis. In the era in which drugs are available to stimulate sexual abilities, they sometimes cause problems, even if they have been taken safely before. I can’t recall a more unpleasant discussion than one I had with a grief stricken family after the body of a member was brought in from a nearby hotel (the hospital “lost” his clothes…) after an apparent sexual encounter.
Patients and their partners may feel more comfortable and confident when following certain guidelines that are quite simple:
• Avoid having sex right after eating a heavy meal
• Familiar partners are less stressful and acrobatics are not essential
• If you feel uncomfortable during intercourse, stop and rest
There's no reason why heart patients can't resume usual sexual activity when they feel ready to do so. Be reassured by a comment from an old medical examiner: “more people die suddenly while going to the bathroom then from sex.”