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Heart Disease and Sexual Activity

Did you know that sex is generally safe for most heart disease patients, even after a heart attack or major heart surgery? According to the American Heart Association, most patients with stable heart disease can safely engage in sexual activity.

Sex is Similar to Moderate Exercise

Doctors suggest that when it comes to your heart, having sex is much like taking a walk or climbing a few flights of stairs. If a patient is able to comfortably engage in moderate exercise, sex is likely safe. Less than one percent of heart attacks are triggered by sexual activity. Additionally, the more cardiac rehab and moderate exercise you engage in after a heart attack, the safer sex is likely to be for you.

Doctors and Patients Often Forget to Discuss Sex 

Many doctors don’t raise the topic of sexual activity with their patients, and many patients fail to ask their doctors about sex. Partners of heart disease patients also may be confused about whether and when to resume sexual activity with their spouse. However, sex is an important aspect of intimacy and healing, and avoiding sex can worsen depression, a common problem for many heart disease patients.

When to Avoid Sex

The American Heart Association recommends waiting at least one week after a heart attack and six to eight weeks after major heart surgery before resuming sexual activity. If moderate activities like walking cause symptoms such as chest pain, sex may not be safe. Interestingly, the risk of sex causing additional problems for heart patients seems to increase in extramarital affairs, particularly with younger partners. The cause of this is still unknown, although anxiety may be part of the explanation. There also needs to be more research for female heart disease patients and the elderly.

Heart Patients and Viagra

Viagra and other prescriptions treating erectile dysfunction also are generally safe for the majority of heart patients. Since heart disease itself can increase the chance of suffering from erectile dysfunction, it is important to discuss this topic with your doctor in order to find a safe remedy. There is a small percentage of patients for whom drugs like Viagra are not safe, such as those who take nitrates for chest pain.

Discuss Your Condition with Your Doctor

Although it may seem uncomfortable, it’s important to discuss the topic of sex with your doctor. In some cases, a doctor may want you to undergo some evaluation, like exercise while being monitored for heart problems, before clearing you for sexual activity. The good news is that your doctor is likely to tell you that sex is safe.


The American Heart Association has recently made recommendations for sexual activity for all kinds of heart patients, including those with congestive heart failure, valvular heart disease and other conditions, so your cardiologist will be able to make the appropriate recommendation for you. FBN

James Dwyer, M.D., is an interventional cardiologist at the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona (HVCNA) where he specializes in cardiac catheterization and coronary interventions. 

The Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona is a partnership between Flagstaff Medical Center and Verde Valley Medical Center. It combines physician office practices with extensive hospital-based services including diagnostic and interventional cardiology procedures and open heart surgery. HVCNA offices are located in Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Sedona and Winslow.

 For more information on the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona, visit www.NAHeartCare.com. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Cohen or one of the world-class physicians at the Heart & Vascular Center, call 877-928-WELL. 


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