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Is There Sex After Heart Disease?

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

Depression and Psychological Issues

Men and women may suffer from depression after a heart attack, which can cause a lack of interest in sex, Jiang says. But some antidepressants may also affect sexual desire and function.

"We are truly in a dilemma," Jiang says. And not surprisingly, men with erectile dysfunction typically feel depressed, which decreases the desire to have sex after heart disease.

Therapy to deal with psychological issues can also help with sexual problems.

Lifestyle Changes Can Help

Men who take steps to live healthier can help their hearts and their sex lives. Sex also gives heart disease patients a good incentive to change their lifestyles.

Exercise increases blood flow everywhere, including to the penis, Fisch says. He recommends walking 10,000 steps a day, or 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.

Losing weight helps patients lower their blood pressure and their cholesterol levels. Smoking constricts and damages the arteries, including those going into the penis. Heavy drinking can lower libido and lead to erectile dysfunction.

The bottom line on sex and heart disease? Patients need to talk to their doctors about their individual cases because someone who has bypass surgery is different from someone who has a mild heart attack. "They should have very open and honest conversations with their physicians," Czajkowski says. Ideally, she says, bring in a significant other.

Patients with any fear of having sex after heart disease might want to remember that intercourse is psychologically -- and apparently physically -- healthy and can have a "protective effect" on men's health.

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Reviewed on February 24, 2009

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