A Heart Attack Doesn’t Need to End Your Sex Life

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • If you, or your partner, recently had a heart attack you may be afraid to have sex. You may worry that the physical exertion of sex will trigger another heart attack. When you have come that close to losing your life, or the life of your partner, you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize their health. You aren’t alone in your concerns, many men and women worry about this and may delay restarting their sex life – longer than necessary.


    Research on Heart Disease and Sex

    In January, 2012, the American Heart Association (AHA) put out guidelines, published in the journal Circulation, based on scientific studies. According to the guidelines, if you can comfortably walk up two flights of stairs, without chest pain or trouble breathing, you are probably safe to have sex. The guidelines indicate that having sex only slightly raise the risk of a heart attack – whether you have heart disease or not.  For heart attack survivors, the risk of having a heart attack during any given hour is approximately 1 in 100,000, during an hour of sex it is 2 to 3 in 100,000.

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    According to the guidelines:

    • If you can walk up two flights of stairs and your doctor approves you returning to your normal sex life, then you can resume sex as soon as a week after having a heart attack.
    • If you experience chest pain, even while resting, you should refrain from sex.
    • If you have had bypass or other major heart surgery you should refrain from sex for six to eight weeks.
    • If you have had minimally invasive heart surgery to clear blocked blood vessels, you can probably resume sex a few days after surgery, with the approval of your doctor.
    • Viagra and other medications for erectile dysfunction are safe for men with stable heart disease.

    Talking to Your Doctor

    One problem heart attack survivors reported was that doctors did not always talk about sex. Patients and their partners may feel embarrassed and doctors are uncomfortable, leaving heart attack survivors wondering and worrying about when to resume their sex lives.


    A survey completed at the University of Chicago Medicine indicated that only 41 percent of men and 24 percent of women had a discussion with their doctor about sex after having a heart attack. [1] The lead researcher, Stacy  Tessler Lindau, M.D. stated, “Doctors need to understand the significant role they play in helping acute myocardial infarction (AMI) patients avoid the needless fear and worry about the risk of relapse or even death with the return to sexual activity. Receiving instructions, prior to hospital discharge, about resuming sex was a major predictor of whether patients resumed sexual activity in the year following AMI. For women, this was the only significant predictor. The discharging cardiologist has detailed knowledge of the patient’s condition, has provided life-saving care and is best positioned to advise on the safety of engaging in physical activity, including sex.” [2]


    The new AHA guidelines may help both doctors and patients bring up the topic of sex and provide valuable information on when the patient can safely resume sex.


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    [1] [2] “A Healthy Sex Life After a Heart Attack,” 2012, May 10, Tiffani Washington, Science Life, University of Chicago Medicine


    “Sex Poses Surprisingly Low Risk to Heart Patients,” 2012, Jan 19, Lindsey Tanner, NBCNews.com


    “Sexual Activity in Patients with Heart Disease,” 2012, William H. Sauer, M.D. and Stephen E. Kimmel, M.D. UpToDate.com



Published On: October 29, 2012