Take Heart - And Make Whoopie

Heart and stroke patients can safely have sex if their cardiovascular disease is stable

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you've had a heart attack or other cardiovascular event, you may be depressed that sex is no longer on the table. But follow some basic tips, and there's no reason to abstain.

Experts in heart diseases, exercise physiology and sexual counseling collaborated on a recent statement from the American Heart Association with advice for patients who have had a stroke or heart attack but are ready to return to an active sex life.

"Discuss your sex life with your doctor."

The authors state that having a heart attack or chest pain due to heart disease during sex is very rare since the sex usually does not last long.

Instead of abstaining, they recommend that patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease get an evaluation from their doctor and ask whether it's okay to have sex. Most of the time, it is.

The statement cautions patients who do have severe heart disease and feel pain after even brief or light physical activity to hold off on sex until they have been treated sufficiently. Once their condition is stable, having sex is fine.

"Sexual activity is a major quality of life issue for men and women with cardiovascular disease and their partners," said lead author Dr. Glenn Levine, M.D., a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. "Unfortunately, discussions about sexual activity rarely take place in the clinical context."

One recommendation is what your doctor would tell you anyway: regular exercise will make it less likely that a heart patient will have a problem during sex, whether it's a cardiovascular problem like chest pain or a sexual dysfunction issue.

Those who do have erectile dysfunction or related issues should see their doctor to see if the problem has an underlying cause, such as vascular or cardiac disease or a mental disorder like depression or anxiety.

Patients also should not avoid taking medications aimed at treating their symptoms or disease because they worry about the impact of drug side effects on sexual performance, the statement says.

Men whose cardiovascular disease is stable should be able to safely take drugs for erectile dysfunction.

However, if they are receiving nitrate therapy for chest pains from coronary artery disease, they should not receive the nitrates until two days after having used an erectile dysfunction medication.

Women with a cardiovascular condition should make sure they are using safe contraception or else that they consult with their doctor on the safety of pregnancy.

Women who are past menopause can safely use topical or vaginally inserted estrogen to prevent pain during sex.

The statement was published January 19 online in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study was funded by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, which is primarily financed through individual charitable donations.

The Association also receives donations from a variety of corporations and foundations. A complete list is available on their website.

Financial disclosures of the 37 contributing writers are available at the end of the PDF of the statement, available on the website. Among the writers, 19 have received financial support from a variety of pharmaceutical companies and other medical corporations.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 19, 2012
Last Updated:
January 20, 2012