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Resuming Sexual Activity After a Heart Attack

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Topic Overview

When can I have sex again?

After a heart attack, you can resume sexual activity when you are healthy and feel ready for it. You could be ready if you can do mild or moderate activity, like brisk walking, without having angina symptoms. Your doctor might tell you that if you can climb two flights of stairs without having any symptoms, you are healthy enough for sex. Or your doctor might want to do an exercise electrocardiogram to check the health of your heart before you have sex again.

Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.

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If you had an angioplasty, you'll wait until your incisions heal. If you had a bypass surgery, you'll wait a few weeks to let your chest heal.

What if I'm worried about resuming sex?

Some people are afraid to resume sexual activity after a heart attack. They are worried that they will have symptoms such as chest pain or will not have enough energy for sex. They also worry about having another heart attack.

The risk of having a heart attack during sex is low. Sex is the cause of less than 1 out of 100 heart attacks.1 This risk is low if you can do moderate activity without having angina symptoms such as chest pain.

Ask your doctor about your risk. He or she can help you know when your heart is healthy enough for the level of activity involved in sex. You can also try professional counseling to help you to understand and deal with feelings of worry or fear.

Tips for resuming sex

When you and your partner decide to start having sex again, it might be helpful to keep in mind the following:

  • Talk honestly to your partner about your concerns and feelings.
  • Choose a time when you are relaxed and comfortable in a place that will be free from interruptions.
  • Wait 1 to 3 hours after eating a full meal so that digestion can take place.
  • Be aware that anxiety on the part of either partner may interfere with sexual arousal and performance. Talk with your doctor about any concerns.

Erection-enhancing medicine. If you take nitroglycerin or other nitrates, either regularly or when needed for angina, do not use erection-enhancing medicines, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra). Taking these medicines together can cause a drop in blood pressure, dizziness, and fainting. But experts agree that for men with stable coronary disease who are not taking nitroglycerin, erection-enhancing medicines are safe.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 13, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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