Sex safe for most heart patients: American Heart Association

Sex is safe for most people who have had a heart attack, according to new guidelines issued by the American Heart Association.

If you can take a brisk walk or climb two flights of stairs without experiencing chest pain or gasping, you can start having sex again, the US-based leading doctor's group has advised.
However, all heart patients must consult with their doctors before resuming their sex life, the authors say.

"Both patients and the patient's spouse or partner often have anxieties about resuming sexual activity after the patient has been diagnosed with heart disease or has undergone a heart procedure.

"Sometimes it is actually the partner who is more anxious than the patient," lead author of the guidelines and Professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Glenn N Levine, was quoted by the 'health.com' as saying.

According to the authors, heart problems during sex are very rare. Less than one per cent of all heart attacks are triggered by sexual activity, Levine notes, and the odds are even lower for people who exercise regularly.

A sedentary person's risk of having a heart attack roughly triples during sex, while an active person's risk rises by just 20 per cent, the authors say, adding that in either case, the absolute risk is extremely small as sexual intercourse typically lasts for minutes, rather than hours.

Most cardiologists fail to raise the topic with their patients, and they are even less likely to ask about anxiety or depression, said Prof Levine.

A number of experts have endorsed the new guidelines published in the latest edition of the 'Circulation' journal.

Stephen Kopecky, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota says that many patients who have suffered a heart attack become depressed as it can reduce libido and affect sexual function.

To make matters worse, he says, avoiding sex can in turn worsen depression.

"That's why it's so important for us to talk to patients about this, and tell them this is not the end of (their) sex life," says Kopecky, who has studied sexual activity in heart patients.

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