Sexual activity is safe for most patients with heart disease and stroke, according to a Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association.
“Sexual activity is a major quality of life issue for men and women with cardiovascular disease and their partners,” says Dr. Glenn N. Levine, professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas and lead author of the Scientific Statement.
“Unfortunately, discussions about sexual activity rarely take place in the clinical context,” he says. To provide recommendations and help foster communication between healthcare providers and their patients, experts reviewed the literature on sexual activity and heart disease.
The article covers the cardiovascular effects of sexual activity in general, the effects of specific cardiovascular conditions, the effects of cardiovascular drugs on sexual function, cautions regarding the use of erectile dysfunction drugs, the use of local and topical estrogen among postmenopausal women, herbal medications, psychological issues, and the importance of counseling patients and their partners.
Recommendations are given with each section. The Statement concludes that it is “reasonable” for most patients with cardiovascular disease to engage in sexual activity after undergoing a comprehensive history and physical exam.
In general, people with stable symptoms and good functional capacity have a low risk of adverse cardiovascular events from sexual activity. On the other hand, people with unstable or severe symptoms should first be treated and stabilized before engaging in sexual activity.
More research is needed on the effects of sexual activity on specific cardiovascular conditions, especially among women and older adults.