Sex and heart problems - is it safe?

When it's okay to have sex after a heart attack

Young adult man suffering from severe heartache.

If you have a heart condition, you might worry about having sex – particularly if you've had a heart attack. If you or your partner has a heart problem, here's what you need to know.

See also: Five heart attack myths you need to know

See also: Seven early warning signs of a heart attack never to ignore

Resuming your sex life
You might worry that having sex will prove too strenuous, but in most cases it doesn't pose a problem. If you're recovering from a heart attack or had surgery on your heart, your doctor will let you know how much activity to do, and when it might be okay to resume your sex life.

As a general guide, if you experience chest pain when you do anything physical, you should avoid sex until you improve. If you can go for a brisk walk and climb two flights of stairs and without a problem, it should be fine for you to have sex.

The NHS say that most people feel fine to have sex four to six weeks after having a heart attack. Most people with heart issues are encouraged to stay active - and sex is a good form of mild to moderate exercise that will help to keep you fit.

When to see your doctor
If you experience chest pain during sex, be sure to speak to your doctor. Many men have problems getting or maintaining an erection after having a heart attack. Erectile dysfunction can sometimes be caused by emotional stress or, less frequently, by medication such as beta-blockers. If you're having issues in the bedroom, talk to your GP. Your doctor can investigate what's causing the problems and may suggest possible treatment.

If you're considering trying an erection-enhancing medicine, discuss it with your doctor first. Some products for erection problems can cause serious problems if you also use a nitrate medicine, used to prevent angina in people with certain heart conditions.

Heart attack risk?
If you have a heart condition, it's natural to worry that sex might prove too strenuous. However, there's no evidence to show that having sex increases your risk of having another heart attack. Once you've recovered, you're no more likely to trigger another heart attack by having sex than someone who has never had a heart attack.

When you feel ready to resume your love life, the British Heart Foundation has the following advice:

• avoid having sex after a heavy meal
• don't drink too much alcohol before having sex
• find a position that is comfortable for you
• ask your partner to take a more active role
• keep any medication close by in case you need it