A recently released study indicates that individuals who have sex regularly before a heart attack are hesitant to resume intimacy so after recovering – especially if they don’t have a conversation about it with their physicians.
In a survey of heart attack patients, only about 50 percent of men and 33 percent of women said their heart specialist discussed when it would be safe to resume sex before they were discharged from the hospital. The study also revealed that only about 2 out of every 5 men and 20 percent of women reported any discussion about the issue with a doctor in the year after their event .
The study also showed that the frequency of sexual activity declined for both genders in the year after a heart attack.
After making adjustments for multiple variables, researchers found that men were 30% more likely and women were about 40% more likely to report a reduction in sexual activity when their cardiologists failed to discuss sex with them after their heart attack.
One of the lead researchers, Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, said “We found that one important difference between people who did and did not resume sexual activity after a heart attack was whether their doctor discussed the issue with them at the time of hospital discharge.”
Most people can safely resume normal sexual activity within a few weeks of having an uncomplicated heart attack, as long as they feel up to it and are able to engage in other moderate activities.
But many patients are worried that attempting sex will trigger another heart attack and even when the patient isn’t concerned, their partners sometimes are.
The actual risk, however, is actually very low, according to Murray A. Mittleman, MD, of Harvard Medical School. But Dr. Mittleman also warns that “Exercise is very important following a heart attack for all sorts of reasons, and this is one more. Exercise virtually eliminates the risk of having a heart attack associated with sexual activity.”
A Conversation With Your Doctor Is Important
The latest study included almost 1200 men and close to 600 women who were surveyed one month and then one year after having a heart attack. The average age of the men was 59 and the average age of the women was 61.
Patients hospitalized for a heart attack who had a conversation with their doctors about sex were more likely to resume having sex again during the following 12 months.
Lindau says doctors are reluctant to talk about sex with patients who have heart health issues, especially if those patients are older. They sometimes assume, often incorrectly, that there is no need to talk about it.
Patients also tend to be anxious about loss of libido or sexual satisfaction caused by depression or heart medicine are typical concerns among heart disease patients.