Every man or woman who has had a heart attack has concerns when they can begin having sexual intimacy after recovering from a heart attack. Certainly the movie, Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, offers the protagonist advice about engaging in sexual intimacy after a heart attack until the man can climb two flights of stairs without shortness of breadth or chest pain. Every woman is concerned whether resuming sexual activity may trigger another heart attack in her partner. We know depression is extremely common after a heart attack, especially for women. This blog will attempt to answer some of those questions that men and women have after a heart attack.
First, most cardiologist believe it is helpful for men to be in a supervised exercise program. These cardiac rehab programs teach men and women that it’s OK for them to exercise after a heart attack.
However, if you begin to feel symptoms such as chest pain, abnormal shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, or palpitations, it definitely makes sense to slow down what you’re doing, whether you’re a man or a woman. If you’re pretty certain it’s angina, which is temporary pain or pressure in the chest when the heart doesn’t get enough oxygen, it might help to take your nitroglycerin tablet under your tongue.
Now the warning: Just like the movie, Something’s Gotta Give, men who use medication for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra, Levitra, or Cialis, — they should not take nitroglycerin. Your blood pressure can fall to dangerously low levels, and there’s an increased risk of heart attack and even death. If you’re on an erectile dysfunction drug and have heart-related symptoms during sex, call your doctor.
Yes, and sexual intimacy is often related to the emotions that follow a diagnosis of heart disease. It influences people’s lives in many different ways, and sexual activity is one of them. A new diagnosis of heart disease — or even a surgical scar — can make people feel less attractive. Some drugs have side effects that diminish sexual interest and performance. When patients feel angry and frustrated, it affects not only their sex lives but also their “couple” relationships.
Sexual intimacy is like a stress test. Engaging in sex shows that you’re capable of doing physical activity in which your heart rate and blood pressure go up. In a sense, you’re doing a stress test on your heart. If you tolerate that well and you feel good doing it, it suggests good things about your overall level of fitness and therefore your risk of heart disease.
Sex can also be a sign of healthy relationships and social supports. It shows you have the opportunities, frankly, and that you’re interested and engaged. Sex is a barometer for overall health.
Bottom Line: Sex is a good thing and sex is okay after a heart attack if your doctor gives you permission to exercise and engage in sexual intimacy. This is a discussion every man and woman needs to have with their doctor after having a heart attack and before leaving the hospital.