April 01, 2019

Sex after heart attack

Often not discussed

After surviving a heart attack, many people appropriately focus on the fundamentals such as changing eating habits, improving fitness, losing excess weight or managing mental health.

It's easy to forget to ask — or to be reluctant to ask — about a safe return to sexual activity. One study of adults ages 18 to 55 who survived a heart attack found that fewer than 20 percent had a discussion with their heart doctor about this topic. For men and women with cardiovascular disease — no matter how young or old — sexual activity can be important to quality of life. Getting the facts can help you safely return to intimacy as you feel ready.

The green light

Sexual activity may be less physically taxing to your heart than you think. Heart rate and blood pressure certainly do increase, but the physical demand is comparable to climbing two flights of stairs or jogging slowly.

This is in part why less than 1 percent of heart attacks occur during sexual activity. In fact, poor fitness and a sedentary lifestyle are greater risk factors for a heart attack during sex than is a prior history of heart attack.

Each situation is unique, but you can anticipate the following as you work with your doctor to determine a safe time to resume sex:

  • Allowing time to stabilize — It may be possible to resume sex in just a few days if you're otherwise healthy and complete blood flow has been...