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Learning About Sex and Your Heart

The heart

Sex is part of a healthy life

Sex is part of a healthy life. It can be safe for people who have a heart problem. But some people may worry about having sex. Or they may have problems having sex or enjoying sex.

If you are having sexual problems, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help you get information, support, and advice so you can enjoy sex again.

Should you avoid sex?

If you have a heart problem, you may worry about having sex. Maybe you're afraid you'll have symptoms, such as chest pain. Or maybe you think that you won't have enough energy for sex. You may even worry that having sex can cause a heart attack.

But sex is actually safe for most heart patients. They don't seem to have any more sex-related heart attacks than other people do.

Some heart patients may have reasons to avoid sex for a while. If you have serious heart problems and have symptoms, like chest pain, when you do anything active, you probably should avoid sex until you talk to your doctor. If you've just had heart surgery, you'll want to make sure that your cut (incision) has healed well before you start to have sex again.

You can ask your doctor to help you know if or when it's okay for you to have sex. If you need help dealing with feelings of worry or fear, you can also try professional counselling.

Is it safe for you to have sex?

You can ask your doctor to help you know if or when it's okay for you to have sex. As far as your heart is concerned, having sex is like doing any mild to moderate exercise. Mild exercise would be slow walking, and moderate activity would be brisk walking.

If you can do moderate exercise, you're probably ready to start having sex again. Your doctor might tell you that if you can climb two flights of stairs without having symptoms, such as chest pain, it's fine for you to have sex.

Being physically active—getting regular exercise—can help you build up stamina and become stronger so that sex is more enjoyable.

How can you get help for problems?

Tell your doctor about any concerns you have about sex. Talk about physical problems that prevent you from having or enjoying sex. Talk about any fears or worries you have.

Counselling might be an option for you and your partner. It may include information and advice on how to resume sex. Counselling may include support and ways to help you relieve anxiety or fear. It may include treatment for physical problems. The goal is to enjoy sex again.

How can you talk to your doctor?

Sometimes doctors are so focused on your disease that they forget to ask about important parts of your life, like sex. You may have to bring up the subject yourself.

It can be hard to talk about sex, even with the person you are closest to. So it can be even harder to bring it up with your doctor. To be successful, try these tips:

  • If you think you will have trouble bringing up sex, practice how you will introduce the subject. You might say something like, "I have some concerns about sex, and I'd like to talk about them today."
  • Before your appointment, make a list of questions to ask your doctor.
  • Be as specific as possible. Tell your doctor what you have tried, what works for you, and what doesn't work.
  • If you have trouble asking the questions directly or you feel rushed, give your list of questions to your doctor. Then ask for another appointment to discuss them.
  • Consider having your partner go with you. For some people, having their partner there makes it easier to talk. And your partner may want to ask questions too.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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