Harvard Heart Letter

Sex before and after a heart attack

Research we're watchting

Many people with heart disease worry if sexual activity is safe for their hearts. But sex is rarely the cause of a heart attack, and sex after a heart attack is safe for most people, according to a research letter in the September Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers asked 536 people ages 30 to 70 who were undergoing cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack to fill out questionnaires about their sexual activity in the 12 months before their heart attack. Over the 10-year follow-up, there were 100 adverse heart-related events among the participants, including heart attacks, strokes, and deaths from cardio-vascular disease.

Fewer than 1% of heart attacks occurred within an hour of sexual activity. And sexual activity was not a risk factor for having a subsequent heart-related event. However, people should be aware that some medications used to treat heart disease can cause problems with getting an erection. Also, drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction can interact with heart drugs, possibly causing dangerously low blood pressure. Talk to your physician if erectile dysfunction affects you.