Let's talk about sex and heart disease

If your heart condition is affecting your sex life, you’re not alone. Sarah Brealey talks to two couples who have overcome their issues and rekindled their desire. Plus, we get advice from an expert, and you can watch our short films about sex after a heart event and erectile dysfunction.

Sex is a thorny issue for many heart patients – whether it’s due to the physical effects of heart disease, the medications, or the emotional impact of surgery. As our survey found, the majority of people with a heart condition – three out of four – said it affected their sex life. But a diagnosis of heart disease needn’t put an end to your intimacy. Seeking medical help, and talking honestly with your partner, are the first steps in overcoming the issue.

Where to get help

If you are having sexual difficulties, see your GP. Don’t be afraid to go back if the first solution doesn’t work. If your doctor seems unable or unwilling to discuss it, ask to be referred, or consider changing your GP. Cardiac rehabilitation should also cover this area and provide support.

For questions about sex and your heart condition, call our Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3300 or email [email protected]

For information on sexual problems, contact the Sexual Advice Association on 020 7486 7262 or email [email protected]

An expert's view

Graham Jackson is honorary consultant cardiologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals and chairman of the Sexual Advice Association.

“For most people, sexual issues are caused by the underlying heart disease, not the drugs, but there are some drugs which can cause problems. Often, there are similar medications which are less likely to cause a problem, so speak to your GP about a change in medication.

“There are some heart drugs which can even be helpful and give you a firmer erection.

“Generally you can resume having sex when you feel comfortable to do so, usually two to four weeks after a heart attack. You should be fine if you can walk a mile on the flat in about 20 minutes, or two flights of stairs in 20 seconds.

“It may not be helpful to wait too long to have sex again. The longer you leave it, the bigger an issue it may seem.

“Don’t suffer in silence. It’s really important to have good communication with your partner and GP.”

More useful information