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Is Sex Safe After a Heart Attack?

Few matters resonate more deeply within our hearts than the intimate bond of sex. The profound connection of sexual intimacy is an indispensable component of a wholesome, fulfilling lifestyle.

But what transpires after surviving a heart attack? Can the joy of sexual activity continue, or must your love life be abruptly stopped? While these may be difficult questions to broach with your healthcare provider -although we wholeheartedly encourage you to do so – we’ve got your answers!

Sexuality and Health

From savoring a mouth-watering meal to cherishing quality time with loved ones, sex is one of those quintessential human experiences that makes us feel fully alive. The unique bond of sexual intimacy invigorates the emotional heart and positively impacts physical health. Hence, a robust sex life is truly a priceless gift.

Savoring the delights of sexual intimacy isn’t just about pleasure—it’s also a balm for your well-being. Sex revs up the immune system, eases discomfort, and reduces stress. Moreover, when the day is done, it ushers you into the world of restful sleep. Truly, the joys of sex are like a gift that never stops giving, offering layer upon layer of health benefits.

The Benefits of Sex for the Heart

Did you know that an intense emotional trauma can cause an actual ‘broken heart’? Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, colloquially known as the “broken heart syndrome,” is a condition in which the heart muscle weakens due to severe emotional distress. The symptoms can mimic a heart attack but are unrelated to any existing heart disease. Instances of this have been documented following traumatic events like the unexpected loss of a loved one or receiving devastating news.

Given this, it’s plausible to suggest that just as our hearts can “break” from intense sorrow or stress, they may also heal with love, compassion, and a sense of tranquility. Sex is intrinsically linked with the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” fostering emotional bonding. This hormone has numerous heart-related health benefits, notably contributing to decreased blood pressure. One study even demonstrated a significant reduction in inflammation and free radicals in response to oxytocin.

Moreover, sex makes people happy. Endorphins released during intercourse reduce anxiety and depression, two factors that increase the risk of heart disease.

Post-heart attack, the gradual resumption of physical activity is crucial. Sex is a fantastic way to incorporate a bit more exercise into your routine, which is likely less strenuous on the heart than a traditional gym workout. Studies show that sexual activity burns approximately four calories a minute. Hence, a passionate 25-minute lovemaking session can help you shed an easy 100 calories.

Interestingly, evidence suggests that regular sex could potentially extend the lives of heart attack survivors. For example, a recent study tracked heart attack survivors over a period of 22 years, finding that those who engaged in sex more than once a week were nearly a third less likely to die compared to those who abstained.

Is It Safe to Have Sex after a Heart Attack?

Having appreciated the profound health benefits of sexual activity, the vital question arises: Is sex safe after experiencing a heart attack?

Recovery timelines post-heart attack vary greatly among individuals. Therefore, it’s important to discuss with your doctor before resuming any form of physical activity. However, most medical professionals are in agreement that it’s safe- and even beneficial- to resume sexual activity following a heart attack.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has issued a statement on sexual activity and heart disease, concluding that sexual activity is generally safe for those capable of moderate exercise, around 3 to 5 metabolic equivalents (METs). In simpler terms, if you can comfortably walk a few city blocks at a moderate pace, you’re probably safe to resume sexual activity.

Despite such reassurances, it’s natural for heart attack survivors to worry about cardiac health during sexual activity. But the actual risks are quite low. In a study tracking 536 heart disease patients over a decade, less than 1 percent had engaged in sexual activity within an hour of their cardiac event.

So how long should you wait after a heart attack before resuming sex? A 2020 study found that maintaining or increasing the frequency of sexual activity within the first months after MI was associated with better survival. Similarly, a 2012 study found a somewhat decreased mortality rate among sexually active individuals compared to inactive individuals.

Sexual Changes After a Heart Attack

After a heart attack, most individuals successfully regain a fulfilling sex life. However, it’s important to know that it’s perfectly normal if sexual challenges arise.

According to a 2016 study, nearly a third of men and 42 percent of women reported sexual difficulties in the year following a heart attack. Navigating the new reality of sexual intimacy following a heart attack can be complex. In the wake of such a significant health event, sexual changes are common and multifactorial. Factors that might lead to sexual changes post-heart attack include:

  • Fear and Anxiety: After a heart attack, changes in sexual behavior often stem from fear, such as the dread of causing another cardiac event. Despite the extremely low risk, this anxiety can still impact sexual performance and desire.
  • Depression: Studies reveal a troubling truth: depression is three times more prevalent following a heart attack. Regrettably, this mental health challenge can cast a shadow over sexual desire and function, making intimacy more complicated.
  • Medication Side Effects: Post-heart attack, patients typically exit the hospital with a new lineup of medications, many of which can throw a wrench into the machinery of sexual function. Commonly prescribed beta-blockers often prompt erectile dysfunction in men and dampen libido in both men and women. Diuretics, another staple in post-heart attack care, reduce blood flow and can also trigger erectile dysfunction.
  • Physical Limitations: The heart attack might cause physical limitations that make certain sexual positions uncomfortable or impractical. This can cause frustration and dissatisfaction with sexual experiences.
  • Low Energy Levels: Recovering from a heart attack often leaves individuals feeling fatigued and with lower energy levels than usual, which can reduce sexual desire and activity.
  • Hormonal Changes: The aftermath of a heart attack can disrupt hormone balance, causing a dip in sex hormones like testosterone in men and estrogen in women. This hormonal shift can influence both sexual function and desire.

Five Strategies for a Safe and Vibrant Sex Life Post-Heart Attack

Forewarned is forearmed. By being aware that sexual difficulties may occur after a heart attack, individuals can proactively manage them. Here are five tips for ensuring a satisfying sex life post-heart attack:

  1. Start Slow: Rediscover the thrills of your early sexual days, when foreplay was just as exciting as the main event. Embrace intimacy in ways that don’t strain your heart, resuming sexual activity as you feel comfortable.
  2. Communicate: Anxiety surrounding post-heart attack activity levels and new sexual challenges is perfectly normal. Talk about your concerns with your partner and healthcare provider. Open communication is key.
  1. Get Creative: Some sexual activities you previously enjoyed might no longer be comfortable. Now is the perfect time to explore new positions that might be more suitable.
  1. Listen to Your Body: Stay tuned in to your body’s signals. If you’re engaging in sexual activity and you start to feel dizzy, have trouble breathing, experience pain, or notice your heart skipping beats, it’s time to pause.
  1. Lower Inflammation: Heart attacks are caused by excess inflammation in the body. Consider lifestyle adjustments to reduce inflammation, which will naturally improve sexual wellness. Regular sunlight exposure, an organic diet high in omega-3s, managing stress levels, and ensuring quality sleep can all contribute to better sexual health.

Next Steps

Although the topic of sexual activity may feel taboo, it’s an inseparable part of our human existence and health. Post-heart attack, talking openly with your healthcare provider about any sexual health concerns becomes vital. These conversations are crucial not only for your recovery but also for your future well-being.

To assist you in this journey, we recommend scheduling a 20-minute complimentary consultation with an NHD health coach. Our experienced coaches are here to provide guidance, reassurance, and compassion as you navigate the path back to a fulfilling and safe sex life. Your heart has endured a lot, but it’s still capable of embracing love and life after a heart attack.

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About Dr. Keith Smigiel NP, DC

Dr. Keith Smigiel

Dr. Keith Smigiel is a regenerative medicine physician and pain management specialist. He takes an integrative approach to medicine, focusing on customized solutions tailored to individual needs. Using advanced, non-surgical treatments, Dr. Smigiel stimulates your body’s ability to naturally heal itself.

Dr. Smigiel helps people suffering from conditions such as chronic pain and erectile dysfunction, to hair loss and weight gain. Combining treatments such as PRP Therapy, Ozone, Neural Prolotherapy, and IV Infusions with functional rehabilitation, he helps you look and feel better.

He heals the body, instead of just treating the symptoms!

With his professional qualifications as a certified family nurse practitioner, a doctor of chiropractic, and a fellow of the International Academy of Medical Acupuncture, Dr. Smigiel offers patients comprehensive care from a broad perspective of conventional and alternative medicine. He also has extensive experience in functional rehabilitation and chronic pain management.

Dr. Smigiel is married to Angela and has two children, Sophia and Larz. When he’s not busy helping patients, he enjoys hiking, mountain biking, motocross, and boating.

About Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller, M.D., Ph.D., FHRS

Dr. James Kneller is one of the nation’s leading heart rhythm specialists. Dr. Kneller is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease, and Internal Medicine.

As a Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Kneller provides comprehensive patient care, combining best medical practice with invasive procedures using state-of-the-art technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders.

Beyond guideline-directed therapies, Kneller is passionate about optimized personal health. With a deep interest in complimentary alternative medicine (CAM), he strives to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, invasive procedures, and exposure to harmful radiation. With Natural Heart Doctor, he strives to help each and every client to Live Well, Eat Well, and Think Well to attain their 100-year heart!

About Dr. Lauren Lattanza NMD, FACC

Dr. Lattanza Office Visit with Patient

As a Naturopathic Physician, I am trained to treat the whole person and get to the root cause of disease.

I went to Arizona State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a depth in physiology and minor in Spanish. After my undergraduate degree I was working on prerequisite classes towards medical school, which is when I came to learn that my values identified best with the principles of naturopathic medicine. I knew that I wanted to help patients identify the causes of disease and be able to offer treatments which would improve their health rather than simply treating symptoms.

I dedicated the next 4 years to the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona where I attained my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. I served as Class President all 4 years, Board of Trustees – Student Trustee, spoke as the Club President for our branch of Toastmasters, and was voted by my peers and attending physicians to earn the Outstanding Leadership Award for the Class of 2020. Throughout medical school I took it upon myself to work alongside MDs, DOs, chiropractors, and functional medicine practitioners in addition to naturopathic physicians.

As a Spanish speaking student, I was able to volunteer with community clinics around Phoenix and provide free healthcare to low-income families. Due to this combined exposure, I came to find my passion in treating cardiometabolic and digestive disorders that are all too common, yet largely preventable. I took the opportunity to learn the broad spectrum of healthcare so I can ensure that I am able to provide my patients with the best options.

About Dr. Jack Wolfson DO, FACC

Dr. Wolfson Office Visit with Patient

Dr. Jack Wolfson is a board-certified cardiologist, Amazon best-selling author, husband, father, and the nation’s #1 Natural Heart Doctor.

For more than two decades, more than one million people have enjoyed the warmth, compassion, and transformational power of his natural heart health courses and events.

Dr. Wolfson is the founder of Natural Heart Doctor Scottsdale, his heart health practice in Arizona, and Natural Heart Doctor, an online resource center with natural health information. Doctors from across the globe reach out to Dr. Wolfson for training and education in holistic health practices.

He has been named one of America’s Top Functional Medicine Doctors and is a five-time winner of the Natural Choice Awards as a holistic M.D. Dr. Wolfson’s work has been covered by more than 100 media outlets, including NBC, CNN, and the Washington Post. His book “The Paleo Cardiologist: The Natural Way to Heart Health” was an Amazon #1 best-seller.

Dr. Wolfson and his wife Heather have four children and are committed to making the world a better place to live. They provide for those in need (including animals) and support natural health causes through their philanthropic efforts.

Chiropractic

Our chiropractor is an expert at adjustments and holistic chiropractic care and works closely in conjunction with the other health care experts at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

IV Therapy

We use specially formulated natural vitamins and minerals that are injected into a vein to prevent or treat dehydration. Ideal for people in Arizona.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Acupuncture

Stimulate your body’s natural healing abilities and promote physical and emotional well-being with acupuncture at Natural Heart Doctor.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Health Coaching

Our health coaches use evidence based skillful conversation, clinical interventions, and strategies to engage you actively and safely in health behavior changes.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Cardio Tests

We use the most advanced testing in the world to assess heart health and to identify the root cause of your health issues.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Office Visits

Schedule an office visit with one of our cardiologists, holistic physicians, chiropractor, or health coaches.

Call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’d like to receive an online second opinion from Natural Heart Doctor. What do I do next?

You can initiate a second opinion online through our website at any time. To begin, select the team member you’d like to speak with and open an account.

Click here for cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Lauren Lattanza. Get details.

Naturopathic Medical Doctor Dr. Tonia Rainier. Get details.

Click here for  Natural Heart Doctor Health Coach.

Alternatively, you can email health@naturalheartdoctor.com. A member of our care team will help guide you through the process of starting a second opinion.

What is the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

The cost for most second opinions varies by team member. This fee includes information collection, a phone or video consultation, a second opinion from a Natural Heart Doctor specialist and guidance throughout the process from your personal Care Team at Natural Heart Doctor.

Cardiologist Dr. Jack Wolfson’s Second Opinion Fee is $1500.

Holistic Physician’s Dr. Lauren Lattanza’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Naturopathic Physician Dr. Tonia Rainier’s Second Opinion Fee is $250.

Note: We apply the Online Second Opinion Call fee as a credit to any future consultations with Natural Heart Doctor, should you choose them.

Will my insurance cover the cost of a Natural Heart Doctor Online Second Opinion?

Most likely, no. Most health plans do not cover online second opinions or consultations. You are responsible for the cost of our second opinion. Natural Heart Doctor cannot file a claim with your insurance carrier, nor can we provide a procedure (CPT) code for this service.

What is the timeline to receive an online second opinion?

We do our best to schedule your second opinion as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes 5 to 7 business days after your information has been collected to receive your phone or video online second opinion.

What information do you need in advance of our call?

Our office will send you a short questionnaire to complete and return. We DO NOT need your complete medical records.

How many questions can I ask the expert during our call?

You may ask a maximum of five questions. This is to ensure that the expert has sufficient time to devote to each question. All questions must be finalized before your online meeting.

What should I expect to receive once my second opinion is complete?

You will receive a summary of our discussion along with our second opinion. The second opinion will be in written form. After you have reviewed the second opinion, a Natural Heart Doctor clinician will follow up with you by phone to address general medical questions about the information provided in the second opinion.

What if I have follow-up questions for the expert after I have reviewed my second opinion?

If you have a clarifying question about an expert’s response to one of the questions in your second opinion, and the Natural Heart Doctor clinician is unable to address it, then you may request a follow up session for an additional fee. 

Is my medical and payment information secure?

Natural Heart Doctor is strongly committed to protecting the privacy and security of all our patients. Our website meets all federal requirements for protecting personal health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All financial transactions are processed by Natural Heart Doctor securely using industry standard payment processing tools.

I would rather visit Natural Heart Doctor for an in-person appointment. What should I do next?

If you would prefer an in-person appointment at Natural Heart Doctor instead of an online second opinion, please call (480) 535-6844 for details and scheduling.

Can I schedule a follow up appointment with the specialist who provided my online second opinion?

Yes, we’re happy to help you on an extended basis. Our clinician can discuss options with you when presenting our second opinion summary.