A heart attack forces you to change your lifestyle. Following an attack, since the doctors advise the patients not to engage in intense activity, they put their sex lives on pause. However, the gap is unnecessarily long since the patients aren’t sure whether they should resume sexual activity. Doctors rarely address this topic as the part of recovery discussions.
Without counseling, patients are left to make their own, often flawed, assumptions about risk associated with sexual activity. Multiple studies have shown that sex puts less of a strain on the heart than people might think. Images from overly dramatic movie scenes and sensational news stories reinforce common misconceptions. In reality, only about 1 per cent of all heart attacks occur during sex. Far less than 1 per cent of heart attack survivors die due to a sexual encounter, according to other research.
Current guidelines developed by groups of leading cardiologists, including Harlan Krumholz, MD, professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale University School of Medicine and study author, state that stable heart patients without complications can resume sexual activity with their usual partner within one week to 10 days.
In January 2012, the American Heart Association [AHA] put more weight behind those recommendations with its most comprehensive review to date of research on sexual activity among heart patients. The report substantiated a longstanding rule of thumb: If patients can engage in moderate exercise—such as walking up a couple of flights of stairs—they are generally healthy enough for sex. The AHA also points to respected guidelines for care after a heart attack, which include patient counseling on resuming sexual activity.
“The goal is to restore a patent’s whole health,” said John Spertus, MD, of the University of Missouri in Kansas City, who designed the study. “That means not only minimizing further progression of coronary disease, but also maximizing quality of life.”