heart issues

Can you stay sexually active with heart issues?

Regular sex is good medicine for your heart.

  • But what if you've had a heart attack or a heart procedure?
  • When is it safe to resume sex again — and should you?

"Most men can continue their sex life after a heart attack, unless there are additional circumstances that increase their risk," says Dr. Jason Matos, a cardiologist with Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "It depends on the person and his specific issue, but most men don't have to give up their sex life because of their heart health."

Here's a look at the main heart issues that men encounter and how they play into one's sex life.

Heart attack

The general guideline is that most men can resume regular sexual activity once they can engage in mild-to-moderate physical activity without issues, such as 10 to 20 minutes of brisk walking or climbing one or two flights of stairs. "Of course, this can vary depending on the person, the severity of heart attack, and whether they also take certain medications as part of their recovery," says Dr. Matos.

For instance, beta blockers, which help lower blood pressure and improve blood remodeling, also can lower libido and increase fatigue. "But this can improve over time," says Dr. Matos.

Nitrate medications help relax arteries and increase blood flow. However, they should not be taken along with erectile dysfunction drugs like sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), tadalafil (Cialis), or avanafil (Stendra) because this combination can cause dangerous drops in blood pressure.

When do you know you are ready for sex?

"If you are engaging in light exercise with no issues and do not have a major cardiovascular problem outside of the recent heart attack — such as valve disease, heart failure, or an uncontrolled abnormal heart rhythm — then you likely can resume your sex life," says Dr. Matos. "But your doctor can and should help guide you on an appropriate timeline."

Heart procedures and surgery

If you had an angioplasty or stent to restore blood flow through an artery, you should wait until the catheter insertion site has healed. The process is most often done through the wrist, but if it was done through your groin, the recovery can be longer.

Men who have open coronary artery bypass surgery should delay sex until the breastbone has healed, which usually takes at least six to eight weeks. For several months after that, you should avoid positions that put stress on your chest.

Risk factors

You should also address any heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and excess weight, before continuing with regular intercourse.

"It's not that you can't have sex with these issues, but it's better for your health — sex and otherwise — to get them under control," says Dr. Matos. Men also should avoid sex if they experience any new or lingering issues like undiagnosed chest pain, shortness of breath, or sudden fatigue. "Get these checked out first before resuming sex," says Dr. Matos.

If you are worried about your physical ability after either a heart attack or heart surgery, participating in cardiac rehab can help improve your fitness and endurance. This provides reassurance that you can safely engage in physical activity, including sex.

Sex talk

It's common for men to have anxiety about their sex life after a heart-related incident. "Men may feel embarrassed, but they need to speak with their doctor about any concerns," says Dr. Matos. "Doctors may not bring it up, so men need to raise the issue."

In fact, a 2014 study in Circulation found that only 19% of more than 1,000 surveyed men who had heart attacks said they received sexual counseling from their health care provider.

It's also essential to share your concerns with your partner. "Your partner may have the same questions and worries, so make sure to share information to help reassure your partner, too," says Dr. Matos.

The bottom line is that if a man feels well and is at least mildly active without chest pains or shortness of breath after a heart attack or heart procedure, he will usually be ready to resume sexual activity.

Scroll to top