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Heart Disease Health Center

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AHA: Sex Safe for Most Heart Patients

Risk to Individual Patient ‘Extraordinarily Low’

Heart Attacks, Death During Sex Very Rare continued...

Most of these cases occurred in men, and three out of four of these deaths involved extramarital sex, most often with a younger partner in an unfamiliar setting.

“One could speculate that higher anxiety or higher adrenaline might have been involved in these deaths, but because the numbers were so small I wouldn’t want to read too much into this,” Levine says.

Chest pain associated with sexual activity, known medically as coital angina, was also uncommon, accounting for less than 5% of all angina attacks.

So When Is It OK to Have Sex?

The AHA statement also addressed how long patients should wait before having sex after a heart-related event, concluding that:

  • Heart attack patients can generally resume sexual activity one week after the event, unless there are complications such as heart symptoms during mild to moderate physical activity.
  • It is generally safe for patients who have had uncomplicated angioplasty procedures to have sex within a few days. Patients who have heart bypass surgeries or other open-heart surgery can generally resume sexual activity within six to eight weeks.

Among the other findings and recommendations:

  • Decreased sexual function, which is common in heart patients, is often related to anxiety and depression and is not commonly caused by heart disease medications.
  • It is reasonable for patients with a new diagnosis of heart disease to be evaluated by their health care provider before resuming sexual activity.
  • Heart rehabilitation and regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart complications related to sexual activity in people who have had a heart attack or heart failure.
  • Premenopausal women with heart disease should be counseled on the safety of contraceptive methods and pregnancy.

Report Should Reassure Heart Patients

Boston cardiologist Jeffrey Kuvin, MD, says the AHA report should reassure patients and their health care providers.

“Sex is generally safe for heart attack patients and for those with many other conditions, including congestive heart failure, congenital heart disease, and heart arrhythmias,” he says.

Kuvin is associate chief of the division of cardiology at Tufts University Medical Center.

“The general rule is that if patients can engage in moderate exercise -- such as walking up a couple of flights of stairs -- without causing heart symptoms, they are probably healthy enough for sex,” Kuvin says.

Since anxiety and depression are common causes of sexual dysfunction in heart patients, the AHA recommends counseling for such patients.

“Sexual counseling of [heart] disease patients and their partners is an important component of recovery; unfortunately, it is rarely provided,” the report concludes.

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