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What about sex after heart disease?

Sexuality is an important part of many people's lives.

The big question
Can I still have relations after getting heart disease? The answer is ...yes! Just because you have heart disease doesn't mean a satisfying sex life must end. There's no reason why you can't resume normal activity as soon as you are ready.

What's ready?

When you are able to climb two flights of stairs without shortness of breath, chest pain, or chest discomfort. Most people can safely resume normal activity 3-8 weeks after a heart attack or heart surgery. If you are concerned, check with your doctor.

After a heart event

Depression can reduce your interest and capacity. You may feel anxious. You may have fears about performance. Your partner may be afraid. As a result, some couples may avoid holding and caressing, because they think these activities will be expected to lead to intimate relations. Yet this is a time when you need the closeness and connection of touch.

Some people avoid intercourse because of anxiety and fear caused by the pain of angina. Talk to your doctor. Pain may be avoided by taking nitroglycerin or a longer-acting nitrite or nitrite skin patches.

If you had a good relationship prior to getting heart disease, you should be able to continue to have a fulfilling relationship.

Can sex bring on a heart attack?

It's unlikely. Only six of 1,000 heart attack sufferers die of heart attacks during sex, and 80% of those are cheating on their partners when they die!

Having intimate relations with someone other than your partner causes anxiety and guilt, which further raises heart rate and blood pressure.

Side effects of drugs

Some drugs used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure can cause erectile and ejaculatory problems. Men with heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes can experience these problems, either because of the disease or the medications used to treat it. For both men and women there may be decreased desire and/or decreased ability to have an orgasm.

If you notice changes in your response after starting a new drug or after increasing the dosage of one you have been taking, notify your doctor. He or she can change your medication or your dosage.

Talk to your doctor - don't be embarrassed. But never stop taking your medication or adjust your dosage without consulting your doctor.

For many men with erectile dysfunction, medications such Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra can be effective. There have been concerns and media reports of side effects or increased risk of heart attack in men who already have heart disease. If used appropriately, these drugs appear to be well tolerated and reasonably safe - but this is something you must discuss with your doctor.

Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra should NOT be used if you regularly or frequently require nitroglycerin for chest pain. This combination of medications can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.

If a man develops chest pain after taking Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra, he should not take nitroglycerin or nitrates. If the pain does not subside or if it is severe, call 9-1-1 for emergency help.

Go ahead and get amorous when:

  • You feel rested and relaxed
  • You're in a comfortable place with the right person
  • You can play soft, relaxing music
  • You can have a cocktail or glass of wine to relax
  • You have lots of time

Have your nitroglycerin handy in case you need it.

Don't do it when:

  • You've had a heavy meal or a lot of alcohol
  • You are tired
  • You are angry, tense, or depressed
  • You've just finished or are about to start strenuous activity
  • You are pressured for time
  • You are in an uncomfortable setting

Focus on touch, sharing, and closeness, and the rest will follow when the time is right. Slowly increasing physical intimacy will help you and your partner regain your confidence.

Signs of trouble
Call your doctor if you experience:

  • Angina during or after sex
  • Increased heart rate and breathlessness 20 - 30 minutes after sexual activity
  • Palpitations more than 15 minutes afterwards
  • Excessive fatigue after sex

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