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Heart Disease Health Center

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Is There Sex After Heart Disease?

Doctors have good news for heart patients hoping to resume sexual activity.

Sex After a Heart Attack or Bypass Surgery continued...

"After a heart attack or any kind of heart disease, they're frightened about whether or not they can have a sexual life," says Wei Jiang, MD, an internist and psychiatrist at Duke Health Systems at Duke University.

But the reality is that most patients can have a sexual life. Although you can't jump into sex the day after a heart attack or surgery, most people can resume sexual relations three to six weeks afterward, as long as they are free of chest pain or other complications.

Sex also gives heart disease patients a good incentive to change their lifestyles. "What's bad for the heart is bad for the penis," says Harry Fisch, MD, a urologist at Columbia University, and author of Size Matters. And what's good for the heart -- exercising, maintaining an ideal body weight, not smoking -- is good for the bedroom. "Everything that is healthy for your heart is healthy for your erection," Schlegel says.

If concerns persist, "You may want to seek out a psychologist to speak with about some of your fears," says Susan Czajkowski, PhD, program director for the NHLBI's division of prevention and population sciences. "The goal really is to get people back to as close as possible their normal set of activities and feeling good about themselves and feeling pleasure... Quality of life is important."

Erectile Dysfunction

Although heart disease is a risk factor for erectile function, erectile dysfunction can be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease. The reason: the tiny arteries that go into the penis are about half the diameter of the ones that go into the heart, so they "clog up" first, says Craig Niederberger, MD, a urologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "The penis is like a red flag...You generally get about three years between symptoms of erectile dysfunction and symptoms of heart disease. Every man with ED should be considered a man with potential heart disease."

People with heart disease also likely have other risk factors for ED such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and obesity.

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