Couples worry about triggering a second heart attack, or even that a patient
could die in the bedroom. But Sotile and cardiologists tell WebMD that
sex isn't nearly as risky as many patients believe. With a touch of
reassurance, heart patients can once again enjoy sex after a heart attack.
Why Fear Sex After a Heart Attack?
While fears of another heart attack or dying are common, patients have also
told Sotile that they're afraid of traumatizing their partner if they die
during sex. As director of psychological services for the Wake Forest
University Healthy Exercise and Lifestyle Programs, Sotile is also a special
consultant in behavioral health for the Center for Cardiovascular Health at
Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Female patients have told Nieca Goldberg, MD, a cardiologist and chief of
Women's Cardiac Care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, about concerns
about increased heart rate and sweating during sex after a heart attack. They
fear triggering heart attack symptoms.
According to Goldberg, depression also sidelines many patients, especially
"Women have higher rates of depression after their heart attacks," she
Men are also prone to problems that cause them to put sex on the back
burner. Randal Thomas, MD, a preventive cardiologist and director of the
Cardiovascular Health Clinic at the Mayo Clinic, says, "A person's life is
essentially thrown upside-down. They see their frailty and how close they came
to dying, and it can lead to a lot of psychological issues and need for
Some patients give up sex after a heart attack, and they're too embarrassed
to talk to their doctor about it. Goldberg encourages you to bring
up the subject if your doctor doesn't.
"Your doctor should talk to you about sex. With all the high-tech procedures
that we do for people to get them back into the community, I also think that we
have to ensure them a high quality of life, and sexual activity is part of
When Can You Resume Sex After a Heart Attack?
Most people can safely resume sexual activity a couple of weeks after a
heart attack, if they have no serious complications, cardiologists say.
In fact, the chance of another heart attack during sex is so low that it's
not worth worrying about, says James E. Muller, MD, a researcher who published
a 2000 study, "Triggering of Cardiac Events by Sexual Activity," in the
American Journal of Cardiology.
"The absolute risk is very low and should not be a consideration for those
with stable coronary disease," he says.