Ensure you are ready for sexual activity after having a heart attack

A good indication of whether or not you’re ready to engage in sexual activity following a heart attack is your physical response to regular exercise. According to the American Heart Association, if you don’t experience the signs of a heart attack such as chest pain, shortness of breath and dizziness during exercise, you probably won’t experience these symptoms while you’re sexually active. There are still precautions you should take, however, following a heart attack.


Do consult with your doctor

Your primary care physician or cardiologist should have a good understanding of your medical history and your current health status, allowing for a better prognosis of how you should go about engaging in sexual activity following your heart attack. Compose a list of your most pressing questions and concerns to go over during your visit. If you feel that the advice isn't sufficient or if you feel uncomfortable discussing this topic with your current medical provider, seek medical attention elsewhere.

Do ask your doctor for a nuclear stress test

If you’re concerned that your heart might not be ready for sexual activity, ask your doctor about taking a nuclear stress test. This test measures the miles per hour you can walk by monitoring your heart while you walk on a treadmill. The American Heart Association states that the safest normal pace is usually 3 to 4 miles per hour, depending on your physical condition. The results of this test along with your doctor’s medical assessments could help give you more confidence in pursuing sexual activity again.

Do speak with your partner about the risks involved

It’s crucial that whomever you engage with sexually is aware of your previous heart attack so that there are no unpleasant surprises and so that precautionary measures can be made on their part as well. Opening up to your partner can also provide you with emotional support and help relieve some of the anxiety you might have about your current health.

Do take it slow

Start out with gentle foreplay and intimacy when first experimenting with sex after your heart attack. There’s no rush to perform the way you once did and it’s possible that with sufficient time and patience, you’ll return to a state of sexual health. Each body is different, so there’s no way of knowing for sure how you’ll handle physical activity immediately following your heart attack. You need to use your best judgment paired with the medical advice from your doctor, taking into account your overall state of physical health, the severity of your heart attack, how recently the heart attack occurred, other pre-existing medical conditions, and so forth. Your level of anxiety surrounding your heart attack can have adverse physical effects as well, so it’s important to be easy on yourself.

Do listen to your body

If you’re getting warning signs, don’t ignore them. The slightest bit of dizziness, chest pain, or other unusual symptoms means that you need to stop what you’re doing and allow yourself to slow down and rest. Don’t assume that you’re having another heart attack prematurely, but be cautious by listening to the warning signs that your body is giving you. By listening to and following your body’s signals, you will see what you’re physically capable of and work gradually toward building up your strength.


Do not take sexual stimulants without speaking to your doctor first

Resuming sexual activity can be healthy and exciting, however, taking sexual stimulants after a heart attack could be dangerous. These stimulants typically work by increasing blood flow to the penis, which usually correlates with increased heart rate and blood pressure. Anything that could interfere with the healthy and normal functioning of your heart should be avoided at this time. Once you have engaged in regular physical activity over an extended period of time and you feel that you’re healthy enough to pursue more intense physical activity, then speak with your doctor about the pros and cons of taking sexual stimulants.

Do not live your life as though your heart attack never happened

A heart attack has a lasting impact and therefore should not be treated as a simple one time event that you’ll be able to immediately bounce back from. Maintain the mindset that slow and steady wins the race, and gradually build up the strength to become more and more physically active. A caring partner will be understanding and accommodating to your health needs and restrictions. Also, take into consideration the factors that could have contributed to your heart attack in the first place, such as diet, stress, and lifestyle choices. This is the time to truthfully assess your daily habits and take steps to improve upon them.

Do not ignore the emotional/psychological issues

A heart attack can be a traumatic experience both physically and mentally. It can be terrifying to experience a complete loss of control over your body and to realize that you’re not functioning as well as it used to. It can also be a wake-up call to the inevitabilities of aging, which can be a painful reality to face. If you’re struggling psychologically following your heart attack, realize that it’s normal considering what you went through, and seek help from a qualified mental health professional. Speak to your doctor about your options and ask for a referral.

Do not avoid having sex altogether

Multiple studies over the years have repeatedly shown the health benefits of sexual activity. Although a heart attack is a scary experience, the heart is strengthened by physical activity, and so avoiding sex entirely isn’t recommended any more than immediately indulging in intense exercise. Take it slow, but don’t become stagnant.

Do not hide your heart attack from a sexual partner

How terrifying would it be to be having sex with someone who suddenly becomes dizzy and starts showing signs of a heart attack? Although it’s healthy to return to sexual activity, you need to take it slow at first to see what your heart is ready for, and if a sexual partner doesn’t know this, things could escalate to a dangerous level very quickly. Do yourself and your partner both a favor by being open about this serious health concern.

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Engaging in sexual activity following a heart attack is safe and even healthy when precautionary measures are taken. Work with your doctor to better understand your health status and physical capabilities at this time. Being physically intimate is an important aspect to physical, mental, and emotional well being, even after a heart attack. However, understanding your limitations and giving yourself adequate time to recover will be critical to regaining your physical health and vitality.

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Muhammad A. Mirza, M.D.Founder and Board Certified in Internal Medicine

Dr. Muhammad Mirza, M.D. is the Medical Director at Doctor Available, LLC, based in New Jersey, and the founder of ErectileDoctor.com. He is board certified in internal medicine and has had extensive experience as a practicing clinical physician...

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