Women's Health Hot Line


Sex, Sex, Sex (and your heart)

My book, 50 Essential Things To Do When The Doctor Says It's Heart Disease, features 35,000 carefully chosen words. But the only word anyone wants to talk about is sex.

Sex, sex, sex.

That's how it's been since I went on the talk show circuit in June. "Now look," I endeavor to point out, "there are 50 important topics listed in this book and sex is only number 44!"

No dice. Whether it's a television, radio or a newspaper interview, the only thing reporters want to talk about is sex.

These reporters are smart!

You know what? They've got the right idea. Although we often gloss over it, sex is a serious topic for women with heart problems. In fact, feelings of sexual inadequacy or dissatisfaction can contribute to depression, and heart patients who are depressed do worse than patients who aren't.

According to the experts, the most common sexual problem experienced by female heart patients is a lack of desire.

If a woman has undergone heart surgery, she may feel undesirable because of her incision. Or she may be afraid of taking an active role when having sex. (You're familiar with the old cliche about the man who keels over and dies of a heart attack in the throes of passion? Heart problems can cause a woman to feel fragile, too.)

Her partner may hold back out of fear of hurting her. To make matters worse, some medications can dampen passion.

Communication is essential

The key to a good sexual relationship is the same as the key to any other good relationship: communication. If you're accustomed to discussing your problems frankly, you should find it easier to talk about those of a sexual nature.

If your cardiologist cannot supply you with needed information, don't suffer in silence. Depending on the type of problem, consider talking with your gynecologist or a mental health professional who specializes in sexual issues.

One of the biggest fears experienced by all heart patients, male or female, is that sexual excitement will lead to a heart attack. Happily, this fear simply is not grounded in fact. Here are the facts for most women:

  • If you are able to climb a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath or experiencing chest pain you should be able to resume passive sex with safety.

  • If you are planning to be the active partner, or anticipate finding sex especially exciting, climbing two flights of stairs without breathlessness or chest pain is the rule-of-thumb.

If you have concerns, talk to your doctor. An approved exercise program can help you get into shape for anything, including sex!

A heart-healthy lifestyle should include a satisfying sex life as well. And that's no joke.