When is it OK to have sex after a heart attack?

Man and woman embracing

Sexual activity has definite physical effects on the heart. It makes your heart work harder, increases its rate, elevates blood pressure, and causes an increase in oxygen consumption. Exercise has all of the same effects, and an exercise program—begun slowly and gradually increasing in intensity—is a key part of cardiac rehabilitation.

Yet there are no standard guidelines for when it’s OK for a patient to resume sexual relations because the answer depends on the severity of the heart attack and the progress made during the recovery period.

“A patient who had a mild first heart attack and had a stent inserted shortly afterward may be able to resume intimacy with a partner within a couple of weeks,” notes UT Southwestern cardiologist Sharon Reimold, M.D.

“In other situations, recovery—and the ability to resume having sex—will be slower. Someone who had a massive heart attack and is dealing with heart failure, for example, may find sexual activity too challenging.”

Other considerations

The ability of the heart to cope with increased demand is only part of the story, Dr. Reimold cautions. Medication interactions also must be considered. For example, drugs commonly prescribed for heart disease can have dangerous interactions with drugs for erectile dysfunction. And psychological factors also may play a part following heart failure.

For these and related issues, Dr. Reimold recommends talking with your physician.

“Don’t be too shy to ask your cardiologist about this topic,” she says. “You are not the only one wondering if and when it’s safe to resume sex after heart problems.”