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Sex and Heart Disease: Life After Diagnosis

 

by the Go Red For Women Editors

It’s no secret that women living with heart disease worry about maintaining a normal, healthy sex life. It’s a major issue that leads to a lot of questions. Could it trigger a heart attack? Will my heart medications suppress my desire for sex? Will my partner understand what I’m going through?

It’s important to ask your doctor when it’s safe for you to resume sexual activity. But if your condition has stabilized, there’s good news: Sex is safe for most heart disease patients, according to a scientific statement published by the American Heart Association. However, this isn’t meant to suggest that you can completely forget about taking precautions.

Although more research is needed on this topic for women of all ages, the biggest issues are ensuring your contraceptives are safe to use in combination with your heart medications, and whether pregnancy poses a risk to your health. And as Glenn N. Levine, M.D., professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, stated, the unfortunate issue that remains is getting heart disease patients to feel comfortable enough to speak openly with their doctors about them.

Dr. Levine goes on to say that getting your sex life back on track is an important aspect of the road to recovery. Feeling good about yourself – and that includes enjoying the pleasure and satisfaction that come with a healthy sex life – is key to improving your quality of life. So, if you’re shy about having these discussions, now’s the time to set the shyness aside and speak openly with your doctor. He or she has been through medical school and has seen and heard everything. There’s no reason to hold back.

Talk about your concerns

If you were recently diagnosed or recovering from a heart-related incident, you’re dealing with a lot. Your emotional ups and downs are completely normal, and counseling can help. But don’t limit your communication about this with a physician alone; it’s a good idea to be open with your partner about it as well, perhaps even going to counseling sessions together.

It may be an uncomfortable conversation to have, but being open about your concerns, risks that your doctor has shared with you, and any changes in desire that you may have can help your partner fully understand what you’re going through. Chances are, your partner is just as concerned that the physical exertion might put you at greater risk, but is too afraid to bring it up.

If you’re convinced that changes in your sex drive or function is related to your heart medications, don’t stop taking them. Your heart health should come first, and without them you’re putting yourself at risk. Be sure to talk to your doctor. A conversation will help clear up any confusion about what’s safe and what isn’t. And he or she will work with you to find the best solution to any problems related to your medications.

For more information, check out the American Heart Association’s brochures on sex after a heart attack and stroke.