It is safe to have sex with a heart condition, say doctors (as long as patients can climb a flight of stairs)
Patients who can do moderate
generally healthy enough to have sex, say experts
14:55 GMT, 9 May 2012
Thousands of heart attack survivors are too worried to have sex because they fear it will trigger another attack, claim researchers.
The myth that sex is a dangerous activity for heart patients is blighting their sex lives – only about one per cent of all heart attacks occur during sex.
Experts blame doctors for not talking to patients about when they can safely resume sexual activity which leaves them in limbo.
Jack Nicholson's character Harry Sanborn suffers a heart attack during sex in the film 'Something's Gotta Give'. Doctors say such occurrences are actually rare
A new study suggests more than half of men and two thirds of women don’t get any advice on sex when they leave hospital.
This makes them up to 40 per cent more likely to have a non-existent sex life a year later, say researchers.
Just two in five men and one in four women talked to their doctor about sex in the year following the attack.
The findings from a US study of 1,879
people who survived heart attacks after hospital treatment are
published in the American Journal of Cardiology (must credit).
But experts say it is a common
problem affecting heart attack survivors who need reassurance that a sex
life doesn’t have to be a thing of the past.
Lead researcher Dr Stacy Tessler Lindau of the University of Chicago said doctors should tackle it with the patients.
She said ‘Doctors need to understand
the significant role they play in helping acute myocardial infarction
patients avoid needless fear and worry about the risk of relapse or even
death with return to sexual activity.
‘Receiving instructions, prior to
hospital discharge, about resuming sex was a major predictor of whether
patients resumed sexual activity in the year following AMI. For women,
this was the only significant predictor.
‘The discharging cardiologist has
detailed knowledge of the patient’s condition, has provided life-saving
care and is best positioned to advise on the safety of engaging in
physical activity, including sex.’ The study showed that patients given
instructions about resuming sexual activity were one and a half times
more likely to do so over the following year.
In contrast, men who didn’t get such
advice were 30 per cent more likely to report a loss of sexual activity
during the year while women were 40 per cent more at risk.
There are 124,000 heart attacks in the UK each year. Of these, more than 50,000 take place in adults under 75 years.
Medical advice to patients says it’s safe to have sex around the time when they are resuming normal physical activities.
Research suggests the risk of a heart attack resulting from sex in heart patients is extremely low.
Dr Lindau said without counselling,
patients are left to make their own, often flawed, assumptions about
risk associated with sexual activity – at least with their usual
Multiple studies have shown that sex
puts less of a strain on the heart than people might think but images
from overly dramatic movie scenes make it appear a significantly risky
activity, she said.
In reality, only about one 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
Current guidelines developed by
groups of leading cardiologists state that stable heart patients without
complications can resume sexual activity with their usual partner
within one week to 10 days.
Earlier this year a report from the
American Heart Association said if patients can engage in moderate
exercise – such as walking up a couple of flights of stairs – they are
generally healthy enough for sex.
Study author Dr Harlan Krumholz,
professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale
University School of Medicine, said ‘This study may help doctors address
issues that they’re traditionally reluctant to discuss.
'We’re showing that addressing sexual health may make a difference to long-term outcomes.'