Study: Most Doctors Don't Talk About Sex w/ Heart Attack Patients

Less than one percent of heart attacks occur during sex.
Less than one percent of heart attacks occur during sex.

In terms of things that are horrible, we have to imagine that having a heart attack during sex, or having a partner have a heart attack during sex, would be traumatizing enough to make a person never want to have sex again. What's significant is that according to doctors, less than one percent of people who have heart attacks do while having sex. Still, people who have experienced a heart attack are often reticent to resume sexual activity and rarely get advice from their doctor regarding when it's once again safe to get busy.

A study published yesterday by the American Journal of Cardiology concludes that fewer than half of all patients who suffered a heart attack received instruction from their doctor regarding reintegrating sex into their lives. A survey polling 1,879 heart attack patients concluded that after a year of follow up visits, less than half of male and about a third of women heart attack survivors received explicit instructions from their doctor regarding sex. Thus, many patients unnecessarily avoided sexual activity. Less than one percent of heart attack survivors die during a sexual encounter.

The study concluded that receiving explicit instructions from a doctor about sexual activity was the primary influence on when a heart attack survivor would begin having sex again. For women, this advice was the number one predictor.

Professional wisdom states that most stable patients are physically able to have sex one week to ten days after an attack. Current guidelines by leading cardiologists say that if a recovering patient is physically able to climb a few flights of stairs or engage in other moderate exercise, then they are likely physically able to have sex too. Of course, most patients don't know this, as most doctors don't bring it up.

"This study may help doctors address issues that they're traditionally reluctant to discuss," said study author, Harlan Krumholz, MD, professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale University School of Medicine. "We're showing that addressing sexual health may make a difference to long-term outcomes."

The study also concluded that most male patients and roughly half of female patients are sexually active and thus recommended that doctors avoid making assumptions about which of their patients value their sex lives. Nearly all of the patients surveyed considered sex in regards to their quality of life, regardless of whether or not they were sexually active.

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