Anxiety about sex is normal and is especially common for those who experience heart failure. Heart failure is a term used to describe a heart that cannot keep up with its workload. The body may not get the oxygen it needs because the heart is not pumping as well as it should. This leads to fatigue and shortness of breath. It can also make everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, and carrying groceries extremely difficult. With physical activity being a cause for concern, many wonder if sex, typically a moderate form of exercise, is safe after heart failure.
The main fear for those with heart failure is whether or not having sex will cause a heart attack. The short answer is probably not. But your sex life could possibly be affected by a heart condition. Patients with heart failure, also called HF, may report a decrease in sexual performance, a loss of sexual pleasure or satisfaction, a decrease in sexual interest, and a decrease in the frequency of sex.
The good news is that doctors encourage getting back to your normal daily activities if your condition is stable. Continuing to engage in the things that make you happy is key to maintaining your quality of life with a heart condition. These are some ways that you can safely continue to have sex after heart failure.
Don’t Face It Alone
Having the support of loved ones who understand your condition is critical. This, of course, includes your sexual partner. Another type of support could come in the form of cardiac rehabilitation. A cardiac rehabilitation plan is a collaborative effort between your doctors, nurses, and pharmacists – plus family and friends, that will ensure you remain healthy after a heart event.
The American Heart Association says cardiac rehab and exercise can lower the risk of sex-related complications in those with heart failure. Cardiac rehab is a medically supervised program designed to improve health in those who have experienced heart failure, heart attack, or heart surgery. It involves exercise training, emotional support and education about a heart-healthy lifestyle.
According to American Heart Association, here’s how to initiate and get the most out of cardiac rehab:
- Ask your doctor if you are eligible.
- If you are, register for a cardiac rehab program.
- In consultation with your medical team, set goals for your heart health.
- Work together to create a cardiac rehab plan.
- Take an active role in your care to achieve your goals.
- Keep taking your medicines correctly.
- Call 911 if you experience new or worsening symptoms.
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Wait Until Your Care Provider Says Your Heart Condition Is Stable
In general, if you’re able to climb stairs or jog or walk a mile without difficulty, it’s safe for you to have sex. Sexual activity is not advised, however, for patients with New York Heart Association Class IV heart failure or if you had heart surgery within the last one to two weeks.
You should abstain from any heavy physical exertion, including sex, until you see a doctor if you have heart disease symptoms such as:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Nausea or indigestion
If you are experiencing symptoms, try other ways to be sexually intimate that don’t make your heart work so hard. These include