Sex After a Heart Attack
When Can You Resume Sex After a Heart Attack? continued...
"Sex is generally physical activity, and some doctors have even said it's
the equivalent of walking up a flight of steps," Goldberg says. "It's not as
vigorous an activity as some people perceive."
Patients may not even need an exercise stress test first to check how much
physical activity their heart can handle according to Thomas. In general,
patients can resume sex after a heart attack if they are "able to walk a couple
of flights of stairs, if they're able to walk on a treadmill, or do
moderate-intensity activity without any chest discomfort or without any severe
shortness of breath," says Thomas.
Sex after a heart attack is safe even after successful bypass surgery or
angioplasty in which stents are placed inside arteries to keep them open,
according to Goldberg. However, bypass patients may need additional time to
recover from their surgical wounds.
Certain high-risk patients do need to be more cautious, however. If they've
developed complications from a heart attack--for example, heart failure or
dangerous heart rhythms that make them prone to heart attack, cardiac arrest,
or fainting-they may need additional treatment. Until these treatments work to
reduce their cardiac risk, they should ask their doctor when it will be safe to
resume sexual activity.
A Few Words of Caution
- Viagra and Other Erectile Dysfunction Drugs: These drugs do not mix
well with nitroglycerin, which many heart patients take to relieve angina, or
chest pain. The FDA warns that the combination can send blood pressure
plummeting to unsafe levels and cause dizziness, fainting, heart attack or
stroke. "There have been some reports of death," Thomas says. "Anybody who's
had a heart attack or heart surgery should definitely be cleared through their
doctor before they think of using any of the medications for sexual
- Beta Blockers: These drugs are used to treat high blood pressure
and other heart problems. They can also reduce risk of heart attack in people
who have already had one. These drugs can increase risk of sexual dysfunction
for both men and women. That's especially true at high doses, according to
Thomas. Beta blockers may cause you to feel depressed, Goldberg says. "You may
not feel like having sex."
- Warning Signs to Stop: If you have chest pain, extreme shortness of
breath, or an irregular heartbeat during sex, stop and rest. If the problem
doesn't go away, call 911. "With any kind of physical activity, we'll breathe
harder and our heart will beat faster," Thomas says. "If it's more than the
usual type of shortness of breath or more than a moderate increase in heart
rate, that would be a sign to stop and to potentially seek medical