A research letter in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has found that sexual activity can be a concern for many heart attack patients, but that sex is rarely the cause of a heart attack and that most patients can safely resume sexual activity after a heart attack.

Dietrich Rothenbacher, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University in Ulm, Germany, and colleagues evaluated 536 heart disease patients aged 30–70 via self-reported questionnaire. Patients reported their sexual activity in the past 12 months prior to a heart attack and estimated the association of frequency of sexual activity with subsequent cardiovascular events, including fatal heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death.

Nearly 15% of patients reported no sexual activity in the 12 months prior to their heart attack, about 5% less than once per month, approximately 25% less than once per week, and 55% one or more times per week. Over 10 years of follow-up, sexual activity was not identified as a risk factor for subsequent adverse cardiovascular events.

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The authors noted that despite the benefits of sexual activity outweighing risks, the potential of erectile dysfunction as a side effect from various cardiovascular protective medications and the risk of a drop in blood pressure from combining certain heart medications with erectile dysfunction medications need to be addressed with patients. It is important for clinicians to communicate to patients that it is very unlikely that sexual activity is a trigger of heart attacks, they concluded.

For more information visit ACC.org.