Sexual Activity and Heart Disease

Is sex safe for people with heart disease?

Readjusting to everyday life can be tough for people with heart disease. You wonder about everything: Should I eat this food? Can I do that activity? Can my body deal with the stress?

Among the many questions is whether heart disease will affect your sex life — or if it’s safe to have sex at all. According to the American Heart Association, it is probably safe to have sex if your heart disease has stabilized.

Cardiovascular events — such as heart attacks or chest pain caused by heart disease (angina) — rarely occur during sexual activity, because sexual activity is usually for a short time.

If you have unstable angina or if your symptoms are severe, you should be assessed, treated and stabilized before having sex.

Further research is needed on sexual activity in specific cardiovascular conditions, particularly in relation to women and older adults.

Don’t be shy about starting a conversation with your health care professional about heart disease and your sex life.

Here’s what you need to know if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease:

  • Ask your health care professional to evaluate you before resuming sexual activity.
  • If you’ve had heart failure or a heart attack, cardiac rehabilitation and regular physical activity can reduce the risk of complications related to sexual activity.
  • If you’re a woman thinking about starting birth control or getting pregnant, be sure to talk to your health care professional first.
  • If you’re experiencing sexual dysfunction, check with your health care professional to see if it could be related to heart disease or to anxiety, depression or other factors.
  • Don’t skip the medications that could improve cardiovascular symptoms because you’re concerned they could impact your sex drive or function. Your heart health should come first!
  • Drugs to treat erectile dysfunction are generally safe, although they shouldn’t be used if you’re receiving nitrate therapy for chest pains due to coronary artery disease. Nitrate therapy also shouldn’t be administered 24-48 hours after using an erectile dysfunction drugs (depending on the drug used).
  • If you’re a post-menopausal woman with heart disease, it can be beneficial to use estrogen that’s topically or vaginally inserted for the treatment of painful intercourse.