Evidence Based Guidelines for Sexual Activity in Cardiac Patients

Decreased sexual activity and function are common in patients with cardiovascular disease. Physicians now have scientifically-based guidelines to help encourage patients to begin talking about this delicate subject.

“Sexual intimacy is a significant quality-of-life issue for heart patients and their partners,” said Perry J. Weinstock, MD, FACC, Head, Division of Cardiovascular Disease and Director of Clinical Cardiology. “A decrease in sexual activity and function often leads to anxiety and depression, which can ultimately increase cardiac risk.”

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released the scientific statement “Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease” and has identified that sexual activity is safe for most heart patients. The writing panel included Cooper’s Allen D. Seftel, MD, FACS, who is distinguished as the only urologist and sexual health expert to take part in this groundbreaking initiative.

“We provided guidance that sex is safe under the right conditions in the appropriate patient,” said Dr. Seftel. “The risk of adverse cardiac events during sexual encounters and shortly thereafter is extremely low when the patient’s heart condition is well managed and the patient is able to tolerate mild to moderate physical activity in the range of three to four METS.”

The AHA writing panel defined sexual activity as the equivalent of three to five METS (metabolic equivalent of task), in order to include men and women of all ages and those who are less physically fit or have cardiovascular disease.

According to Dr. Seftel, adverse cardiovascular events before, during or after sexual activity are rare because the greatest risk occurs during orgasm, which lasts about 10 seconds.

“The data suggests that heart rate rarely exceeds 130 bpm and systolic blood pressure rarely exceeds 170 mm Hg in normotensive individuals,” adds Seftel.

“In the privacy of an exam room, patients should feel comfortable talking about anything,” added Dr. Weinstock. “Very few patients come right out and ask about issues with sexual activity even though it is a normal and very important part of life for both the patient and their partner.”

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