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Sex After A Heart Attack -- When Is It Safe?

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Johns Hopkins cardiologists talk about a leading concern of heart attack patients.

It’s normal to be concerned about your safety following a heart attack, but unwarranted obsessions will interfere with lovemaking and rob the experience of its joy. Have you ever wondered:

Q. How long should I wait to resume sexual activity following a heart attack?

A. For most people, sex can be resumed within three to four weeks following your heart attack after having discussed it with your doctor. Whatever you do, however, don’t rush into sex with the feeling that you have to prove your sexual prowess following your heart attack. Take it slow, just as you would with any other type of activity.

Q. How dangerous is sexual activity after a heart attack?

A. For the most part, not very dangerous at all. Normal sexual activity is no more strenuous on the heart than a number of other routine physical activities, such as brisk walking, golf or carrying 20 pounds of groceries from the car to the house.

After a heart attack, there are both physical and emotional hurdles the patient must clear in order to return to a full, active and healthy life. The best-documented path to recovery after a heart attack begins with a supervised cardiac rehabilitation program (covered by most insurance plans and Medicare) at a hospital or medical center staffed with cardiac nurses and exercise physiologists, all working under the supervision of a cardiologist.

Q. How will a cardiac care program help?

A. Cardiac care programs have three major goals: maintain or improve one's functional capacity; improve quality of life; and prevent future heart attacks. Changes to diet, regular supervised exercise and counseling on a variety of topics -- including sex -- are all vital components of this comprehensive approach to full recovery.

Cardiac rehabilitation programs are often referred to as medical boot camps for patients who have suffered a heart attack. In an 8- to 12-week period, patients who have suffered a heart attack are taken through a supervised exercise program (treadmill walking, stationary bicycling, strength training), provided with nutrition guidance and taught stress management techniques. In addition, they are offered abundant encouragement to make positive lifestyle changes that will dramatically decrease the risk of a second heart attack, keeping them healthy and out of the hospital.

Therefore, when it comes to fear of death from sexual activity after a heart attack, there is little to fear. If you are able to live a physically active life, there is no reason to abstain from sexual activity. While you may be more aware of your heartbeat, breathing and overall well-being, this is normal and will likely lessen over time. 

Posted in Heart Health on January 26, 2007
Reviewed June 2011

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer

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