As I’ve mentioned previously, middle-age women are at greater risk of having a heart attack, especially in the decade after going through menopause. Our risk increases due to the decline in our estrogen levels, which is believed to be a factor in the development of heart disease. Add in higher blood pressure and bad cholesterol numbers that often come with age and our bodies become a tinder-box waiting for an explosion.
And if we survive a heart attack, it can really mess with our heads as we try to live our lives. Take sex, for instance. Should you have sex after suffering a heart attack? If so, when? It turns out that women who have had such a health episode have no answers for those questions. In fact, a new study out of the University of Chicago found that postmenopausal women who have had heart attacks expressed a desire that their doctor provided them with more information to ease their fears of having sex again.
The study involved 17 women who were, on average, 60 years of age and had participated in the Translational Research Investigating Underlying Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Patients’ Health Status (TRIUMPH) Trial, which is a multi-state study that is looking at health and sexual outcomes of participants who have had a heart attack. They answered extensive questions about their sex lives before as well as after their heart attacks.
So what did researchers learn from these interviews? Here goes:
- Most of the women were afraid to have sex again. Many of their partners were, as well. They were concerned about whether their hearts could stand the exertion of sex and wondered when it might be safe to have sex again.
- Many of the women resumed having sex as early as four weeks after their heart attack, despite their safety concerns.
- Most of the study participants said they had sex in order to be closed to their partner again. They also did it in order to get their life back to a normal state.
- A few women did talk to their doctors about resuming sex. Most of these women brought up the subject. They also were unhappy with the quality of information they received.
The researchers encouraged cardiologists to openly talk with women who have had heart attacks about resuming sex. This discussion should start while the woman is hospitalized and continue as the woman recovers.
In general, experts say that the more exercise you get, the better your odds of not having another heart attack. And that activity can include sex. The Walker Heart Institute reports that if you can comfortably walk one-quarter of a mile or climb two flights of stairs, you’re ready. Most women can resume sexual relations within a few days of having a heart attack. However, you may have to wait two weeks if you have experienced a severe coronary attack. And you don’t have to worry about sex triggering another heart attack since researchers found this type of activity contributed to less than one percent of heart attacks. However, if you have had a heart attack, discuss all activities with your doctor.
And if you’re going through menopause, it’s time to really focus on what you can do to protect your health, especially in relation to your heart. Experts recommend consuming a Mediterranean diet, limit your use of salt and getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity weekly.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
American Heart Association. (2013). Women want doctors’ help in facing fears about sex after heart attack.
Walker Heart Institute. (nd). Sex after heart attack.
Published On: July 29, 2013