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Heart Disease Health Center

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Sex After a Heart Attack

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 dysfunction."

  • 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 attention."

Sex After a Heart Attack: Resuming Your Romantic Life

In the weeks and months after a heart attack, it's normal for patients to have sex less frequently. But when they're ready to resume, they should proceed gradually and without fear, experts say.

"Think of sex as a particularly enjoyable workout," Sotile writes in his book, "Thriving with Heart Disease."

He advises heart attack patients to pace themselves and ease back into sexual activity. It's also best to try to have sex only when patients feel rested and relaxed.

Experts also recommend waiting from one to three hours after eating a meal to allow for digestion.

Regular exercise helps, too. "We encourage people with heart problems to get in the best shape of their lives," Thomas says. When people become more fit, their hearts are better able to handle the demands of physical activity, including sex.

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