After surviving a heart attack, a patient’s initial focus is rightfully on getting stronger and making a complete recovery. But over time, it’s natural to start thinking about other things…like sex. While it would be very nice to return immediately to an active sex life, most people are understandably nervous about how the exertion might affect a still-healing heart. Thankfully, there is new research offering some evidence that your love life can become hot and steamy once again after your heart attack almost as soon as you’re capable of walking up a couple of flights of stairs.
The study, which was conducted at Ulm University in Germany, found that many post-heart attack patients are perfectly safe having sex, and it might even be beneficial to their health as a source of exercise.1 Rothenbacher, Dietrich; et al. “Sexual Activity Patterns Before Myocardial Infarction and Risk of Subsequent Cardiovascular Adverse Events.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. September 2015. Accessed 30 September 2015. http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleID=2442717 The subjects were 536 German men and women between the ages of 30 and 70 who were tracked for a 10-year period. All of them had been diagnosed with heart disease prior to the beginning of the investigation. They answered questionnaires about their sexual activity.
The scientists analyzed the participants’ reported sexual activity for one year before each participant’s heart attack. They discovered that approximately 15 percent of the group said they had engaged in no sex at all for 12 months prior to the cardiac event and another 25 percent of them reported having sex once a week on average. The vast majority, 55 percent of the subjects, said they had been sexually active more than once a week over that year.
During the course of the decade they were followed, 100 heart attacks, strokes, or other cardiovascular events occurred among the volunteers. The researchers then sought to determine whether a sexual encounter might have precipitated any of these repeat cardiac events. As it turns out, they found that less than one percent of the patients reported having sex within an hour before their heart attack took place. The risk of having a heart attack was no greater for those who had sex at least once a week than for those who abstained from sex entirely. In fact, very few of the heart attacks that occurred over the course of the study period happened within 24 hours of any sexual activity.
These findings make sense when you put them into the context of healthy recovery. Once you have reached the point at which you can safely and comfortably walk up a few flights of stairs or walk briskly for half a mile, you are likely physically ready to re-activate your love life because these are similar levels of working out. The timing of the resumption of sexual activity will depend on how your recovery is progressing, of course, and should be discussed with your physician as you would taking up any form of exercise after a heart attack.
While the size of the study was relatively small, its results are in line with those of previous research. A 1996 study at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts showed that sexual activity was a possible contributor to a heart attack in just 0.9 percent of cases.2 Muller, James E.; et al. “Triggering Myocardial Infarction by Sexual Activity.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 8 May 1996. Accessed 1 October 2015. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=401995
Of course, all of this is not to say that everyone should start having sex the minute they are feeling better post-heart attack. There are circumstances, such as having mild chest pain when exercising, that would suggest you are probably not quite ready for passionate lovemaking yet. In addition, other factors can come into play like erectile dysfunction, which is also frequently seen in men with cardiovascular disease. And Viagra, so commonly used to treat ED, has side effects that include increased heart rate, palpitations, and a rise in blood pressure. In addition, it is contraindicated for use with certain pharmaceutical heart medications that many heart attack patients are prescribed during their recovery period.
But overall, the news is good for heart attack survivors who are starting to feel amorous again. For most, sex can be a normal part of a healthy lifestyle that also includes taking care of yourself through good diet and other forms of exercise. It’s nice to know that as you recover, there will be plenty of good things to look forward to.
|↑1||Rothenbacher, Dietrich; et al. “Sexual Activity Patterns Before Myocardial Infarction and Risk of Subsequent Cardiovascular Adverse Events.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. September 2015. Accessed 30 September 2015. http://content.onlinejacc.org/article.aspx?articleID=2442717|
|↑2||Muller, James E.; et al. “Triggering Myocardial Infarction by Sexual Activity.” Journal of the American Medical Association. 8 May 1996. Accessed 1 October 2015. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=401995|