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There are many reasons why people who have been diagnosed with heart disease find it difficult to enjoy their sex life. These include depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, fear of getting pregnant, or lack of physical ability to engage in sex.

Cardiovascular disease (heart disease) is the leading cause of death in the US. There are different types of heart disease, affecting around 80 million Americans, but the most common type that causes the most deaths is coronary artery disease, which often leads to heart attacks. Coronary artery disease affects about 13 million Americans, and of these, about one million suffer from heart attacks each year.

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People with heart disease are often advised to modify their lifestyles, as part of their medical treatment. They are often asked to eat a healthy diet with fewer calories, fat and sugar, and to exercise with caution. Lifting or pushing heavy objects is often prohibited, and some restriction on doing chores such as raking and shoveling may be imposed. For some patients, climbing stairs or walking a short distance make them easily tired, and this makes them feel a little bit scared to do their usual activities. Because of these, people with heart disease are more cautious about the food they eat and the normal activities that can put stress on their heart.

Sex and Heart Disease

Among the common concerns of people with heart disease is their sex life. Some may be embarrassed to ask their doctors about it, but even their partners may be concerned. According to Glenn N. Levine, M.D., professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, sexual activity is a major concern for both men and women with heart disease, since it plays a role in their quality of life.

In a scientific statement by the American Heart Association (AHA), lead author Levine reveals that it is safe to engage in sex if a patient's heart condition has stabilized.

Unfortunately, some patients are not able to carry on their normal sexual activities, not because of the heart disease, but because of anxiety and depression. They may be worried that the physical and emotional excitement associated with sex might trigger a heart attack. But AHA spokesman Vincent Bufalino, MD, a heart specialist, states that they encourage patients to stay physically, as well as sexually active, which makes them happier people. Experts also reveal that heart attacks rarely occur during sexual intercourse (less than 2%). If it does happen, studies show that men are more likely to be involved, especially when they are having an extramarital affair with a younger woman, while having sex in an unfamiliar place. This means that it is highly unlikely to happen in married couples, or people who are in a stable relationship.

Safety Precautions

Doctors do not forbid their patients with heart disease to have an active sex life, but they strongly urge them to wait until they are properly evaluated and stabilized, just as if they were returning to their usual routines. AHA volunteer Dr. Levine recommends that patients who are unstable and have severe symptoms of cardiovascular disease (such as chest pains) should be treated first before resuming sexual activity.

If you have been diagnosed with a heart disease, talk to your doctor about the daily activities you can do, including sex.

Sex is like a cardiac workout, and if you can pass a stress test, climb stairs and walk for about six minutes on a treadmill, then you may be fit enough to do light jogging, play tennis and have sex.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • WebMD. Is there sex after heart disease? http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/is-there-sex-after-heart-disease
  • AHA. Sexual activity is safe for most heart patients. http://newsroom.heart.org/news/sexual-activity-is-safe-for-most-221740
  • WebMD. Safe Exercise for Heart Disease Patients. http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/safe-exercise-patients
  • AHA. Sex and Heart Disease. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Sex-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_436414_Article.jsp
  • Photo courtesy of Jon Seidman by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/jonseidman1988/4716708042
  • Photo courtesy of See-ming Lee by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/seeminglee/8238515586
  • www.webmd.com
  • www.heart.org

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