Intimacy and Heart Disease: Resuming Sexual Intimacy

Intimacy and Heart Disease: Resuming Sexual Intimacy

Be patient. Give your partner and yourself time to rebuild intimacy.

When you both feel ready for sex, start slowly. Once you have your doctor's OK, having sex with a partner you know well should not cause a heart attack (also known as acute myocardial infarction or AMI). On average, sex takes about as much energy as climbing two flights of stairs. Here are tips for resuming safe sexual intimacy.

Older man and older woman hugging.Helpful Hints

  • Start out slowly and give yourself time to feel ready. Try hugging, kissing, touching, or caressing at first. They help you both feel close and wanted.

  • Choose a quiet, relaxed place to be intimate. Keep the temperature in the room comfortable.

  • Choose a time when you both feel rested. Try when you wake up in the morning or after taking a nap.

  • Wait at least 1 hour after eating, taking a bath or shower, or exercising before you have sex.

  • If your doctor has prescribed medication to be taken before sex, take it as directed.

If You Have Problems

  • If you have angina (chest pain) during sex, stop and take nitroglycerin as prescribed by your doctor. Contact your doctor as directed. Keep in mind that it is unsafe to take nitroglycerine and certain drugs for erectile dysfunction.

  • If you have shortness of breath during sex, stop for a few minutes. If it doesn’t go away, or if it comes back when you resume sex, call your doctor.

  • If you have trouble sleeping after sex, or you are very tired the next day, talk to your doctor.

  • If you can’t become aroused, talk with your doctor. Erectile dysfunction is fairly common. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to improve sexual function unless you are taking nitrates.

If You’ve Had Heart Surgery

If you’ve had heart surgery, ask your doctor when you can resume sex. Once your doctor says it’s OK, sex should not cause any harm. Healing from surgery most often takes 4–6 weeks. To prevent pain until you’ve healedstick with lower level activities that avoid putting stress on your chest area.