Sex after a heart attack; is it safe?
After a serious cardiac event such as a heart attack, stroke or heart transplant, many patients may be anxious about resuming sexual activity due to fears of triggering another heart issue. Further, according to a joint statement released from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the European Society of Cardiology, many partners of patients who have suffered a cardiac event may have more concerns about sexual activity than the patients themselves. That’s why the AHA is recommending heart patients and partners of heart patients receive sexual counseling from a health care provider following a serious cardiac event.
The statement, published in the AHA journal Circulation and the European Heart Journal claims to be the “first” to provide “how-to” information about resuming sexual activity after a heart attack, heart transplant, stroke or received an implanted heart device.
Among the recommendations for sexual counseling by health care professionals are:
- routinely assessing all patients after a cardiac event and during follow-up visits to determine if the patient is healthy enough to resume sexual activities;
- giving individualized, structured counseling based on specific needs and medical condition;
- discussing recommended positions, how to be intimate without having sexual intercourse and when to resume sexual activity; and counsel all patients regardless of gender, age and sexual orientation
“I tell my heart patients that if they’re healthy enough for cardiac rehab, they can, in most cases, resume sexual activity,” says Dr. Robert Koch, a cardiologist with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “Usually three weeks after their hospitalization for a heart attack or surgery, they’ll have an outpatient, symptom-limited stress test that will show whether or not their heart is symptom free.”
Dr. Koch curbs his patients’ potential silence or embarrassment on the topic by making sure to bring the subject up himself. “You can tell that a lot of patients and spouses just don’t feel comfortable with asking about it, but sex is an important psychological and emotional part of couples’ lives, so it must be discussed candidly.”
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