Sex after a heart attack

Sex is safe for most people after a heart attack. If walking briskly up and down two flights of stairs does not cause pain or undue breathlessness then sex should also be symptom free.

But some people may be worried that it will trigger another heart attack, or they may have lost interest in sex. If people are concerned or having problems, they should talk to the doctor or the nurses. Many support organisations offer information and advice about sex after a heart attack (see ‘Resources’ section).

People who have faced a near death experience may feel a greater need for sexual intimacy. For one man and his wife, the need for sexual contact became more important after his heart attack.

He was concerned at first but making love with his wife became very important after facing a near…

Age at interview 54

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 54

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Sometimes if people feel depressed or anxious, it can take a while before they feel ready for sexual activity. One woman had lost her confidence and didn’t feel good about herself, so she hadn’t wanted to resume her sex life for a long time after her heart attack.

She lost her confidence and hasn’t wanted to have sex for quite a time after her heart attack.

Age at interview 37

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 36

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Some fear that having sex will cause another heart attack. One man who had had a recent heart attack had been concerned at first, but his worries soon passed. Another recalled that his wife was worried that he might hurt himself but they overcame any problems by talking to each other. One woman said that it was hard at first but things did improve with time.

His wife was concerned about having sex but they overcame her worries by talking to each other.

Age at interview 55

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 47

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It was hard resuming her sex life at first but things improved with time.

Age at interview 42

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 37

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Those who have had bypass surgery may be conscious of the physical change to their bodies. One woman said she felt very conscious of the scars on her chest and leg but had overcome her feelings with support from her husband.

She felt conscious of her scars after bypass surgery but her husband helped her to overcome her…

Age at interview 57

Gender Female

Age at diagnosis 53

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Problems with erections in men after a heart attack may be the result of emotional stress or medication, such as beta-blockers. People experiencing this problem are advised to talk to their GP or the cardiac nurse because it may be possible to change medication or to prescribe medication specifically for erectile dysfunction. Such drugs as sildenafil (Viagra) are generally safe following heart attacks unless the person is taking a nitrate drug for angina. None of the men we interviewed mentioned that they had experienced this problem.

How it affects carers

It may be possible that actually having a heart attack is less frightening than having it happen to someone you love. Many people mentioned that...