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Jun 18, 2016

Patients Shy Away From Sex After a Heart Attack, Study Finds

Despite being safe for most patients, many adults with heart disease avoid sexual activity.

Despite being safe for most patients, many adults with a history of heart attack avoid sexual activity, according to research recently published in the British medical journal Heart.

Known as the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing, this study surveyed adults in England about their health and lifestyle. The study was conducted between 2012 and 2013 and included nearly 6,700 men and women aged 50 and older. Roughly 1% of participants had a history of heart attack, which occurs when blood flow to the heart becomes suddenly blocked.

After analysis, researchers found that men with a history of heart attack were 38% less likely to be sexually active and 28% less likely to think about sex compared to healthy adults. Men with a history of heart attack were also 46% more likely to report erectile difficulties, which can be common in patients with heart disease.

Researchers also found that women diagnosed with heart disease in the past four years were 56% less likely to be sexually active than healthy women.

Findings are concerning, as heart disease appears to take a toll on sex life for many adults, especially men. Past research suggests that impaired sex life can reduce quality of life and increase risk for depression.

To address this issue, experts encourage better advice about sex and physical activity after a heart disease diagnosis. Most guidelines advise that after a heart attack, sex is safe once a patient can resume physical activity. However, not all patients receive proper counseling on sexual activity after a heart disease diagnosis. As experts explain, better counseling may help improve quality of life, which is especially important for patients living with heart disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • Is it safe to have sex after a heart attack?
  • Although many people are afraid to resume sexual activity after a heart attack, the risk of having a heart attack during sex is low for most patients. However, it’s important to discuss resuming both physical activity and sex after a heart attack to reduce risk of a second event.
  • How can I help prevent a second heart attack?
  • Patients with a history of heart attack have significantly increased risk of a second heart event. Participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program can help patients regain strength after a heart attack and teach individuals how to prevent a second heart attack, like by quitting smoking, reducing blood pressure, staying active, eating healthy, and adhering to therapies advised by the doctor.

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