The American Heart Association and the European Society of Cardiology released a statement on Monday urging physicians to discuss sex with their cardiac patients post-heart attack, transplant, stroke, implanted heart device, or other heart conditions, as well as counseling their partners.
The Washington Post reported that this is viewed as the first scientific statement of its kind with detailed guidance on resuming sex after a heart condition.
In Eduardo Chapunoff's book, Heart Disease & Sex, he writes that 50 percent of post heart attack and implantable defibrillator patients don't return to having sexual intercourse. This news is sad and discouraging for a large portion of our population — which includes myself and my husband.
When people think of heart disease, they often associate it with the 70-year-old and older crowd. Even though the statistics are higher as we age, this stereotype excludes a significant portion of those with heart disease under the age of 50. Additionally, it limits the importance of sexual activity as we tend to de-sexualize those in their senior years. The recommendation by the AHA helps to end the view that elderly sex is not important, and adds an important voice to the opinion on remaining sexually active with cardiac and other health conditions.
At the age of 25, I was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy (a weak heart muscle often leading to transplantation, lifelong medication and even death). I was not interested in ending my sex life. In fact, I wanted to have sex until my life ended and even thought humorously, "what a way to go!" I wanted intimacy to continue being a significant part of my relationship and sex expression.
At that time, doctors did not inquire about my sex life or provide suggestions. It was I who hounded them about expectations, effects and my abilities. My husband asked about the potential risk to him if my pacemaker/defibrillator provided a treatment, or shocked me, during sexual activity. He was informed that he'd feel a bit of a jolt, but that it shouldn't dissuade him. I reminded him that he always knew I was "electrifying."
The intensity of my cardiac symptoms and medication made sexual interest, arousal and response challenging for a handful of years. Now after 16 years post-diagnosis, two pacemakers and stabilization on my medications, my sexual expression and interest are pretty high. I am lucky to have no restrictions on my sex life. Oh, the endless possibilities!
But wait. My 38-year-old husband decided last month to have a near fatal heart attack, undergo surgery and be placed in a hypo-thermic coma. His survival is beyond a miracle. Now he's the one who is dealing with the multiple effects of heart disease, medications and life adjustments. Luckily, he's married to a sex therapist, cardiac patient and supportive partner (I believe he'd agree).
When my husband asked the doctor about his sex life, specifically when he could have sex again, the doctor laughed, noting it was the first question most men ask post-heart attack. Now providers can be on the same track as their patients. We want to effectively treat our condition and get back to our lives — our sex lives in particular. Keep Reading...
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