Is Sexual Activity Safe After MI?

It may be safe to resume sexual activity following myocardial infarction (MI), and MI is rarely caused by sexual activity, according to a research letter published Sept. 21 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers examined 536 patients with incident MI between the ages of 30 and 70 years old. The majority (85.8 percent) of the patients were men. The patients self-reported their frequency of sexual activity during the previous 12 months, with 14.9 percent of patients reporting no sexual activity in the 12 months before their MI, 4.7 percent reporting sex less than once per month, 25.4 percent reporting less than once per week and 55 percent reporting one or more times per week. Patients who were more sexually active were on average younger, more often men, less often had diabetes and less severe coronary heart disease and were often more physically active.

During 10 years of follow up, 100 adverse cardiovascular events occurred. Researchers examined the timing of the last sexual activity before MI and found only 0.7 percent of patients reported sexual activity within an hour before MI, no patients within one to two hours before, and 1.5 percent in the three to six hours before. In comparison, 78.1 percent reported that their last sexual activity occurred more than 24 hours prior to MI.

The authors conclude that their results show that it is unlikely that sexual activity is a relevant trigger of MI. They add 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 should be clearly communicated to patients.

“Based on our data, it seems very unlikely that sexual activity is a relevant trigger of heart attack,” said Dietrich Rothenbacher, MD, MPH, lead author of the study and professor and chair of the Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry at Ulm University in Ulm, Germany. “Less than half of men and less than a third of women are getting information about sexual activity after heart attack from their doctors. It is important to reassure patients that they need not be worried and should resume their usual sexual activity.”

Keywords: Blood Pressure, Coronary Artery Disease, Coronary Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Erectile Dysfunction, Myocardial Infarction, Sexual Behavior

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