Could having sex trigger another heart attack? We speak to experts about how safe it is to get back in action after a heart attack
It’s only been a few months since you had a heart attack and you’re just about beginning to limp back to a normal life. And now that you’re back to doing most of the things you used to before your health scare, you wonder if hitting the sack with your partner might just trigger another heart attack. Your fears aren’t unfounded. Several people are worried about the same thing. Where you once used to enjoy physical intimacy, you’re now afraid that it might tell on your already weak heart. But do you really need to lead a life of celibacy due to one incident?
While it is true that people with a heart condition need to make adjustments in their existing lifestyles to rule out future attacks, it is not the end of the world and they can safely resume most of the activities they did before the attack. In fact, according to a research conducted by Harvard, it proved that sex is safe on people with a history of severe heart attack. If you have an existing coronary heart problem and had one or a few heart attacks before, the chance of having a heart attack during and after sex is about 1 in 50,000. On the other hand, in people with healthy heart, the chance is much smaller, 1 in 500,000. Although the risk is 10 times higher than people who never experienced heart attack, many doctors believe that the risk is still very small.
One of the most commonest fears most heart patients have is that indulging in sexual activity can stress their heart and trigger a heart attack. But the truth is less than 1 per cent of the heart attacks are triggered due to sex. “Many patients who have had a myocardial infarction (heart attack) are concerned about whether sexual activity endangers their heart. Contrary to a popular belief, sexual activity does not cause myocardial infarctions. As a general rule, most people can resume sexual activity within four weeks after being treated for a mild to moderate heart attack. If the heart attack was particularly severe or the heart is very weak then the patient should wait for three months before resuming sexual activity, “ says Dr Sunil Kapoor, senior consultant cardiologist at Care Hospital.
“It is however, advised that patients discuss resuming sexual activity with their physician before doing so,” explains Dr Sunil.
According to guidelines laid down by the American Heart Association, if patients can engage in moderate exercise — such as walking up a couple of flights of stairs — they are generally healthy enough to have sex. Now, a new study has found that patients who were sexually active before suffering a heart attack were one and a half times more likely to recapture their sex lives if they received guidance on the topic before leaving the hospital.
However, a few precautions like avoiding sex after a big meal, reducing your consumption of alcohol and ensuring that you don’t stress too much over things can help. Also ensuring that you take your medications regularly and find a comfortable position for yourself during lovemaking can help ease the stress.
“Patients are also advised to refrain from using Viagra or similar drugs to boost their virility. For these drugs when combined with their heart medication can create problems like a sudden fall in blood pressure,” warns Dr Sunil.
While most patients are wary of discussing matters like these with their doctors, most medical practitioners ensure that their patients are in the know of such things. “As part of the rehabilitation programme we do discuss topics like resuming of sexual activity and also tell our patients what they can or cannot do,” says Dr Sunil.