Is Sex Safe After A Stroke Or Heart Disease?

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ROBBINSILLE — With St. Valentine’s Day right around the corner, cupid is hard at work making sure love is in the air. Among the heart shaped candies and chocolates, red roses and romantic restaurants, many couples may be questioning if one of the most romantic nights of the year can end with intimacy.

Approximately one in three Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease and nearly 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. Re-adapting to life after a stroke or heart disease episode can be overwhelming and filled with questions-including what to eat, what to drink, how much stress your body can handle and what activities are okay to participate in.

Among the many questions is whether heart disease or stroke 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 cardiovascular disease has stabilized and your doctor has given you the green light.

“It’s important for survivors and caregivers alike to understand that returning to intimacy can take some time,” notes Mirian Medina, RN and stroke coordinator at Raritan Medical Bay Medical Center. “There might be new challenges to face, including emotional obstacles like insecurity, a feeling of unattractiveness or depression or physical issues like numbness, weakness or lack of feeling in certain parts of the body.”

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association suggest having an open conversation of your concerns with your doctor. Know that you are not alone and that there are ways to still light the fire in your relationship, despite any cardiovascular disease condition.

Consider the following as you approach the topic with your partner and doctor:

  • Ask your doctor 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 doctor first.
  • If you’re experiencing sexual dysfunction, check with your doctor to see if it could be related to cardiovascular 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. They also shouldn’t be administered 24-48 hours of using an erectile dysfunction drug (depending on the drug used).
  • If you’re a post-menopausal woman with cardiovascular disease, it’s generally safe to use estrogen that’s topically or vaginally inserted for the treatment of painful intercourse.
  • If you are a caregiver, you might find it difficult to transition to a romantic role. Seek out a support group or consider asking outside help to come in to alleviate some of your caregiver responsibilities.
  • If you experience in weakness in one part of your body, explore alternatives that you are comfortable with.

Love doesn’t need to end once you’ve experienced heart disease or stroke. For more information, visit www.heart.org or www.strokeassociation.org


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