'Sex Talk' Eases Fear of Sex After Heart Attack
More Patients Rekindle Sex Lives if Their Doctors Discuss When It's Safe to Resume Sex
The latest study included 1,184 men and 576 women surveyed one month and one year after having a heart attack. The average age of the men was 59 and the average age of the women was 61.
Men were more likely to report being sexually active prior to having their heart attack, and they were more likely to be married than the female heart patients. But even after adjusting for these differences, patients hospitalized for a heart attack who had a discussion with their doctors about sex were more likely to have sex during the following year.
Lindau says doctors are often reluctant to discuss with their heart patients the issue of sex after a heart attack, especially if those patients are older. They may also assume, often incorrectly, that there is no need to broach the subject, she adds.
"There is no role for profiling in this discussion," she says. "And I have never found a patient to be offended or embarrassed when I raise the topic of sexuality. Some tell me it is not an issue for them. But bringing it up shows that I am not making judgments, and it makes it easier for them to talk about it if it does become an issue in the future."
New York cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, who specializes in treating women with heart disease, says she typically talks to her heart attack patients about sex while discussing physical activity in general.
In addition to fear about triggering a second heart attack, loss of libido or sexual satisfaction caused by depression or heart medications are common concerns among patients.
"It is important to discuss these issues," she says. "If the doctor doesn't bring it up, the patient definitely should."