How Soon You Can Resume Having Sex After Having a Heart Attack?

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Many people delay having sex for too long because they do not talk to their doctors about safe timing.

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Heart patients benefit from counseling about when it is safe to resume sex, according to a recent study. Patients who had been sexually active before a heart attack were 1.5 times more likely to resume their previous level of sexual activity if they received counseling about when to do so prior to discharge from the hospital.

Researchers found that patients who had a heart attack or an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) unnecessarily delayed or refrained from sex if they did not receive counseling from a doctor before they left the hospital.

Even after a year, only 41 percent of men and 24 percent of women reported discussing with their doctor when and how often they could resume having sex.

The researchers, from the University of Chicago, University of Missouri, and Yale University, surveyed 1,879 patients who had been hospitalized for an AMI. They found that less than a half of men surveyed and about a third of women recalled receiving instructions about when they could safely resume sexual activity before they left the hospital. Even after a year, only 41 percent of men and 24 percent of women reported discussing with their doctor when and how often they could resume having sex.

Stacy Tessler Lindau, lead author of the current study, said it highlights the need for more doctors to address sex as an important part of life, even after a serious event such as a heart attack. Harlan Krumholz, another author and a 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."

Receiving instructions about resuming sex is an important predictor of whether or not patients resume sexual activity in the year following AMI. In fact, for women, counseling was the only significant predictor. "Doctors need to understand the significant role they play in helping AMI patients avoid needless fear and worry about the risk of relapse or even death with return to sexual activity," said Lindau, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago School of Medicine in a press release.

Current guidelines state that patients who do not have any complications can resume sexual activity within one week to 10 days. In January, the American Heart Association (AHA) published a review of research on sexual activity among patients with heart disease. The report supported the long held notion that those who can engage in moderate exercise - such as walking up a few flights of stairs - are usually healthy enough for sex.

The study was published in the American Journal of Cardiology.


This article originally appeared on TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com, an Atlantic partner site.

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Charlotte LoBuono, has a Master's of Science degree in biology from Seton Hall University. Her work has appeared in New Scientist and Daily Glow. 

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