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Resuming Sexual Activity After a Heart Attack - Topic Overview

When can I have sex again?

Sex is part of a healthy life and part of your quality of life. It is safe for most people after they have had a heart attack.

After a heart attack, you can resume sexual activity when you are healthy and feel ready for it. You could be ready if you can do mild or moderate activity, like brisk walking, without having angina symptoms. Your doctor might tell you that if you can climb two flights of stairs without having any symptoms, you are healthy enough for sex. Or your doctor might want to do an exercise electrocardiogram to check the health of your heart before you have sex again.

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Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns.

If you had an angioplasty, you'll wait until your incisions heal. If you had a bypass surgery, you'll wait a few weeks to let your chest heal.

What if I'm worried about resuming sex?

Some people are afraid to resume sexual activity after a heart attack. They are worried that they will have symptoms such as chest pain or will not have enough energy for sex. They also worry about having another heart attack.

The risk of having a heart attack during sex is low. Sex is the cause of less than 1 out of 100 heart attacks.1 This risk is low if you can do moderate activity without having angina symptoms such as chest pain.

Ask your doctor about your risk. He or she can help you know when your heart is healthy enough for the level of activity involved in sex.

Tips for resuming sex

Consider resuming sex gradually. You can start with ways of being intimate that are easy on your heart, like kissing and caressing. When you and your partner decide to start having sexual intercourse again, it might be helpful to keep in mind the following:

  • Talk honestly to your partner about your concerns and feelings. Your partner may have the same worries that you have.
  • Choose a time when you are relaxed and comfortable in a place that will be free from interruptions.
  • Wait 1 to 3 hours after eating a full meal so that digestion can take place.
  • Be aware that anxiety on the part of either partner may interfere with sexual arousal and performance.
  • Stop and rest if you have any angina symptoms. Call911if your symptoms do not go away with rest or are not getting better within 5 minutes after you take a dose of nitroglycerin.
  • Tell your doctor if you have angina symptoms during sex.
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