Patients who’ve recently had heart attacks or heart surgery are sometimes nervous about sexual activity, fearing the rise in their pulse could be dangerous. But according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA), those concerns may be for naught.
While the authors say you should certainly consult your doctor before resuming sexual activity, they believe anyone who can walk briskly or climb two flights of stairs without experiencing chest pain, abnormal heart rhythms or shortness of breath is probably healthy enough for sex.
But it’s not always just patients who have trepidation — their partners do too, so the guidelines stress the importance of involving those partners in discussions with doctors. In fact, Glenn N. Levine, M.D., the lead author of the AHA guidelines and a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, says, “Sometimes it is actually the partner who is more anxious than the patient.”
The guidelines, which appear in the journal Circulation, have been endorsed by a host of physicians’ groups and are the first ever from the AHA to focus on the frequently-overlooked topic of heart disease and sex.
Stephen Kopecky, M.D., a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, told CNN many patients who have a heart attack or undergo bypass surgery become depressed, which can reduce libido and affect sexual function — and avoiding sex can even worsen the symptoms of depression.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to talk to patients about this, and tell them this is not the end of [their] sex life,” he said.