One of the most difficult things patients can discuss with their cardiologist is their sexual health. It’s one of the most overlooked issues during a cardiac visit, but it’s a problem for women with heart disease and for their partners.
In addition to general embarrassment, generational values can hinder asking questions. However, maintaining a happy and healthy sex life is important to your overall health and wellbeing, even if you live with cardiovascular disease.
Don’t be afraid to discuss this with your doctor, and if your doctor is male, you can request the presence of a nurse or other doctor during your conversation. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Let us check you out. If you have had a cardiovascular event, ask your doctor to examine you before resuming sexual activity. This is especially important if you have recently had a heart attack, heart failure, complex heart rhythm, or uncontrolled heart symptoms.
Generally, if your doctor gives you the green light, the relatively short duration of sexual activity will not put undue stress on the heart. As a rule of thumb, if you can walk up two flights of stairs, this exercise tolerance means that sexual activity is safe to resume. But always ask your doctor first.
Don’t skip your medication. Do not stop taking your medications, even if you think they are affecting your sex drive. Instead, discuss this with your doctor and see if the mediation needs to be adjusted or changed. If you have heart disease, hormone replacement and oral contraceptives should not be used. However, the topical estrogen cream was used safely for vaginal dryness.
Build up your energy again. Taking your cardiac rehabilitation seriously and exercising regularly can help you get the stamina you need to resume sexual activity.
Get your snuggle in. By touching and holding your partner, you can return to physical intimacy in a comfortable, stress-free way.
Make an appointment. Scheduling the time for intimacy can be a stepping stone back to regular sexual activity.
For more information, see the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women