Sex is an integral part of most people's lives. After a heart attack, though, some people may be too shy to ask their doctors when they can resume sexual activity. However, this is a conversation that you must have with your healthcare provider since the timeframe differs from one individual to another.
Generally, it would be best if you took things slowly, but that does not mean you have to abstain from sex for the next year or so. Since sex is most often a moderate activity, you should be ready to have sexual intercourse again if you can climb up two flights of stairs without feeling short of breath or experiencing any pain. If you have had surgery, it is best to wait for six to eight weeks.
The bottom line is not to put any pressure on yourself or your heart. Initially, you might feel less interested in sex. That is perfectly normal, and the feeling goes away quickly.
Is sex risky for people with heart disease?
Not in most cases. People who have heart disease or have recently had a heart attack often ask if they are at a greater risk of complications during sex. Expert consensus is that if you are fit enough for it, you should be having sex.
However, there has been evidence that having sex with an unfamiliar partner, such as outside marriage, may be riskier for men who have heart disease. Talk to your doctor about engaging in casual sex following a heart attack.
Tips for resuming sexual activity after a heart attack
Once you feel healthy enough to have sex again, make sure to talk to your partner before over-exerting yourself. You can start with slow things like kissing or caressing.
Do know that your blood pressure will rise during sex? It can go up to 160/90, depending on your activity level, but that peak is comparable to your blood pressure when you go on a brisk run. Typically, your blood pressure returns to normal afterward, so there is not much to worry about.
Here are some tips to ease back into your sex life:
- Talk to your partner honestly about your feelings and concerns. If they have any similar feelings, discuss them with your doctor and get a professional opinion.
- When you are in the process of resuming sex, be in a comfortable space without any distractions. Make sure there are no interruptions so that you can take your time and be as comfortable as possible.
- Wait for an hour or two after eating before engaging in sex, allowing food to be digested. Otherwise, you may experience heartburn, which might raise a false alarm, making you feel anxious.
- Anxiety can also affect your or your partner's performance. Talk to each other about your concerns. If that does not resolve the problem, speak to a therapist.
- Fatigue can be the most significant limiting factor during sex after heart failure. Discuss your issues and concerns with your doctor. They may adjust some medication or suggest physiotherapy to help you regain your strength.
- If you have any symptoms of angina during sex, talk to your doctor. Go to the emergency room right away if the symptoms do not go away within five minutes of taking nitroglycerin.
- Try different sexual positions. Some may be more comfortable than others. Work with your partner to find the right position that does not cause stress to your breastbone.
How do you know you are healthy enough to have sex again?
Many people are reluctant to have sex after a heart attack because they worry they may experience pain or, even worse, another heart attack. However, it is essential to remember that while sex does increase your heart rate, it does not necessarily put you at risk.
That said, you should not engage in sex if you have the following symptoms following a heart attack:
How to counter the side effects of heart medication
Some blood pressure and heart medications may negatively affect your sex life, as they can reduce your libido—the desire for sex—or make the process of sex uncomfortable. If that is happening to you, speak to your doctor.
Alternatively, you can have sex before taking the medication to not experience any immediate effects of the drug during sex. If the medicine is disturbing your natural lubrication, buy a lubricant from the pharmacy to compensate for it.
Finally, keep in mind that sex is an integral part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Don't let your post-surgery anxiety keep you from enjoying time in bed. Don't be hesitant to speak to your doctor during the recovery period if you have any questions.
Cleveland Clinic: "5 Common Questions About Sex and Your Heart."
Harvard Health Publishing: "Can blood pressure medications interfere with my sex drive?"
Heart Foundation: "Relationships and sex after a heart attack."
John Hopkins Medicine: "Is Sex Dangerous If You Have Heart Disease?"
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