Sex And Heart Attacks: Take The Stairs Test

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If you're a heart patient and you're healthy enough to walk up two flights of stairs without chest pain or gasping for breath, it's probably safe for you to have sex.

That's the advice from the American Heart Association, which for the first time has scientifically studied a subject that evidently doctors and patients have been too embarrassed to talk about: Whether having sex raises the chance for a heart attack.

For heart patients, it's a common fear that having sex after a heart attack or heart surgery will strain their heart and trigger further problems. The new recommendations address that fear and provide doctors with guidelines for advising their patients on resuming their love life.

The new heart association guidelines says that having sex only slightly raises the chance for a heart attack, whether you have heart disease or not. And there's no evidence that heart patients have more sex-related heart attacks than those without cardiac disease.

However, married men cheating with younger women in strange hotels -- you may need to worry. The new report says some studies suggest you're at a greater risk of a heart attack during sex because of all that stress.

Many heart patients don't think twice about climbing stairs, yet many worry that sexual activity will cause another heart attack or even sudden death, Glenn Levine, M.D., lead author of the recommendations report and a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told the Associated Press.

Doctors have also felt uncomfortable talking about sexual activity with their heart patients, Levine said, or felt they lacked enough solid information on which to base their advice. The new guidelines, endorsed by a number of medical organizations, should help.

The guidelines, which appeared online Thursday in the heart association journal Circulation, say that heart patients should talk to their doctor before resuming sexual activity to make sure their symptoms have stablilized, but that sex is safe for most heart patients.

The guidelines also advised:

  • Heart attack survivors can resume having sex after a week if they can climb two flights of stairs without discomfort and their doctor okays it.
  • People with severe heart disease, who have symptoms like chest pain even while resting, should refrain from sexual activity until their symptoms can be stabilized.
  • Those who had bypass surgery or other major heart surgery should wait six to eight weeks; those who had minimally invasive surgery to clear blocked blood vessels can have sex several days after the procedure, with the approval of their doctor.
  • Viagra and other drugs for erectile dysfunction are generally safe for men with stable heart disease.
  • Sexual activity is the cause of less than 1 percent of all heart attacks, and people who exercise regularly or undergo cardiac rehab have an even lower risk of complications related to sexual activity.
  • Among heart attack survivors, the average risk for another heart attack is about 1 in 100,000 in any given hour; during sex that risk rises to about 2 or 3 in 100,000.


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