Reclaim your sex life after a heart attack

If you’ve had a heart attack you might have a very different view on just how sex will factor into your daily life. Before the event you might have thoroughly enjoyed the intimacy and pleasure you got from being with your partner. But now…

Questions about sex that often run through the minds of those who have had a heart attack include:

  • Will my sex life ever be the same again?
  • If I have sex, will I have another heart attack?
  • How can I talk about this with my partner?
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    One Starts at 60 reader who recovered from a heart issue told us, “It is a joke between us, my wife and I. She’ll say ‘Oh, be careful’ if I get too excited, but there is also some truth to it. I’m scared I’m going to have another episode, and I don’t want that.”

    How can you get your sex life back on track after a heart attack?

    Men and women will often worry that any form of sexual activity after a heart attack will lead to another one. Yet it is worth noting that fewer than 1 per cent of heart attacks come as a result of having sex.

    Think of sex like exercise and if the doctor gives you the all clear to recommence physical activity after your heart attack, it’s highly likely you’ll be good to go in the bedroom too.

    If you have engaged in a rehabilitation program following your heart attack you might find it will also address many of the worries patients have about sexual activity and sexual function.

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    Heart attacks and the medication you take following a heart attack can cause sexual difficulties, mental health issues and anxiety.

    In fact, the University of Chicago found that 31 per cent of men aged 55 years or younger and who had no sexual difficulty prior to their heart attack reported an issue in sexual function after the event.

    At least one quarter of them experience erectile dysfunction, almost 20 per cent reported their interest in even having sex had diminished and 16 per cent said they felt anxious about their performance.

    Read more: Treading erectile dysfunction naturally

    Often rehabilitation programs will get you comfortable with reintroducing exercise into your lifestyle and once you become comfortable with exerting yourself you can work on making sex a regular activity.

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    Are there warning signs to be aware of that would prevent sex from happening?

    You need to be aware of symptoms such as chest pain, an abnormal shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue and even palpitations. Additionally, if you are a man using medication to treat erectile dysfunction you should consult with your doctor if you experience any of those heart-related symptoms.

    The problem for men with erectile dysfunction who have a heart condition is that the medication can affect the arteries and cause your blood pressure to drop, which can in turn increase your risk of heart attack and even death.

    What happens if you’ve lost interest in sex since your heart attack?

    First and foremost, don’t panic. There are a range of emotions that come when a person has a heart attack and it can influence you in ways you may not have expected, including your interest in sexual activity. You might be questioning yourself and your ability, which is why anxiety rates so highly in the concerns about sexual activity following a heart attack.

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    For women, depression has been reported as being quite a common response after a heart attack. According to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease roughly 20 to 25 per cent of all patients in cardiac care are depressed at any given time.

    According to the JAMA study your chance of having a heart attack is about one in a million, even if you have had a heart attack previously. Talk to your doctor (and your partner) about your concerns and what it means for you if you want to resume having sex.

    Read more: Don’t give up on sex just because you’re getting older

    It’s also worth noting that your partner might be feeling anxious about resuming sex with you after your heart attack too, which makes open communication all the more important.

    Resuming sex after a heart attack can be a sign not only of a healthy relationship, but of a healthy heart. Because your heart rate and blood pressure go up during the activity you could liken it to performing a ‘stress test’ on your heart. If things go well, it could be a good sign for your overall health.

    Have you had a heart attack? Did you find it affected you in ways you didn’t expect? Share your stories with us.