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Heart Disease and Sex

With heart disease being the leading overall cause of death in women and men, good medical care is usually not hard to come by. After years of ignoring heart disease in menopausal women, it is now better recognised as a common condition in middle aged women, and better diagnosed and treated.

Heart disease covers a range of conditions from angina and arrhythmia to heart attacks that can be fatal. But as awareness about heart health continues to improve, so more and more people are diagnosed and treated and live with it, as opposed to dieing from it.

There is a growing body of research showing that a healthy, plant-based, low-fat diet and lifestyle including exercise and risk (smoking, excessive alcohol, etc) avoidance can not only stop the deterioration in the heart’s condition but can also reverse it, possibly even curing heart disease.

Yet most heart patients will choose to compromise on the ideals they set for themselves when they face their own mortality: they lose their resolve about make radical changes, leaving them living in fear of the next time. Instead of giving up on meat/alcohol/smoking/their sedentary lifestyle they give up living life to the fullest and they give up on to some or other extent on sex.

Sex is especially threatening to patients following heart surgery. When told to be careful about making an effort immediately after heart surgery, the place for sex is left vague, as many patients report. So they tend to take the careful path and not exert themselves, which translates to laying off the sex much longer than necessary. This in fact, is not what should be recommended.

The facts are that it is safe to return to sexual intercourse when you can do stairs or as soon as your doctor gives you the go-ahead and you feel up to it. Though you may have to ask specifically. Don’t be shy, its a logical question and if the doctor doesn’t volunteer the information, they should be asked for it.

Sex is safe and it is a healthy way to regain strength and a positive outlook. Sex can be toned down to a comfortable effort level, meaning finding positions which are less demanding on the patient.

Special Considerations

  • Cardiologists and cardiac nurses should discuss sex as a matter of fact, just as they speak about dietary issues. However, many health professionals are uncomfortable and avoid the subject if their patient does not raise it. This is unfortunate and unprofessional, but it is too common. Patients who are not satisfied with the explanations they receive from their physician on the subject of sex should seek a therapist or physical therapist in the treatment chain to speak to.
  • Patients tend to experience lack of libido and men often experience erectile dysfunction. This should be temporary, passing when the post-treatment “down” passes and when medication decreases. Couples should return to non-intercourse intimacy; sensual touch can be uplifting, comforting and it can avoid distancing between partners that can otherwise take time, even years, to overcome.
  • Males with heart disease often have erectile problems that precede the discovery of their heart problems. Cholesterol that blocks heart vessels also slows blood flow to the penis. Curing their heart risk factors will improve their sexual abilities.
  • Lack of fitness and obesity, especially in women, contribute to negative body image and sexual desire. Improving them often leads to better feelings towards and enjoyment of sex.


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