Sex and your heart: Is it safe to be intimate after a heart attack?

Healthcare providers say having a heart attack during intercourse are low. Source: Getty

If you’ve ever experienced 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, you may be asking yourself:

  • 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?

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.”

Heart health comes to the fore this February for Red Feb, in which people across Australia are encouraged to wear red to help raise awareness for cardiovascular disease. In recognition, Starts at 60 chose to highlight the often overlooked aspect of heart health and its impact on one’s sex life while helping to alleviate any concerns about enjoying intimacy following a heart attack.

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

Like any chronic health condition, the risk of experiencing a heart attack can increase or decrease as a result of positive and negative lifestyle factors and despite your age.

According to the Heart Foundation Australia, if you’ve had heart surgery you can revive intimacy in the bedroom within six to eight weeks post-op.

As a general rule, the American Heart Association states if you are able to walk up a flight of stairs without experiencing any chest pains or struggling to breathe, then sex will probably be safe, just avoid putting any pressure on your chest.

“Sex is no different from any other kind of exercise. It is good for your heart. Getting sexually aroused will not hurt you. Nor will an orgasm.”

What are some of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

In addition to knowing when it’s safe to jump back in the sack, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of a heart attack such as chest pain, abnormal shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue and even palpitations.

Per the Heart Foundation Australia, “Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom in both women and men. This can feel like uncomfortable pressure, aching, numbness, or squeezing.”

“Women are more likely than men to experience non-chest pain symptoms. Non-chest pain symptoms include pain in other parts of the body like the jaw, shoulder or back, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or light-headedness, or sweating.”

Men, on the other hand, have been reported to suffer most predominantly from symptoms including chest pain/discomfort, shortness of breath and nausea.

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

First and foremost, don’t panic. There is a range of emotions that come when a person has a heart attack and it can impact 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.

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.

Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, notes that “the possibility of having a heart attack during sexual activity is exceedingly low and shouldn’t scare you away.”

“As long as you’re not experiencing any symptoms, it’s not worrisome,” Blaha said.

However, it is recommended to talk to your doctor (and your partner) about your concerns and what it means for you if you want to resume having sex.

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.

Keep in mind that it is normal to experience some changes in sexual function after a heart attack, and it may take some time to regain your previous level of physical activity. Communication with your partner and taking things slowly can help you to adjust and feel comfortable. Remember, your health and well-being are a priority, and it is important to listen to your body and proceed with caution.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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