Heart Failure and Sexual Activity
Sex is part of a healthy life and is part of your quality of life. Most people with heart failure can still have an active sex life. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about having sex. If you have mild heart failure, your doctor will likely say that sex is safe for your heart. If you have more severe heart failure, your doctor will likely check your health to make sure sex is safe for you.footnote 1
If you or your partner is worried about having sex, talk with your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor or another health professional can give you support and advice.
How to make sex easier on your heart
Sex is like any activity that makes your heart work harder. So you can try things that make sex easier on your heart.
- Be well rested before having sex.
Avoid sexual activity when:
- It's very hot or humid outside.
- You're under stress.
- You've just had a meal.
- Don't drink alcohol for at least 3 hours before sex.
- Stop and rest if you have trouble breathing.
- Stop if you feel light-headed or have chest pain or pressure, palpitations, or a fast heartbeat.
- Try other ways to be intimate that don't make your heart work so hard. These include hugging, cuddling, and kissing.
How to be safe
Tell your doctor if you're having symptoms, such as trouble breathing, when you have sex.
Talk with your doctor before trying an erection-enhancing medicine. If you take a nitrate medicine, do not take a medicine such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra). Combining these medicines can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.
Get help for problems
Unfortunately, many people with heart failure also have sexual problems. Your interest may drop, or you may have shortness of breath or other symptoms that limit your ability to have sex. Men may have erection problems. Women may have sexual problems too.
Talk with your doctor. Counselling with a health professional can help you resume sexual activity.
You can get help for erection problems or other sexual troubles.
- Levine GN, et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058-1072.
Other Works Consulted
- Steinke EE, et al. (2013). Sexual counseling for individuals with cardiovascular disease and their partners: A consensus document from the American Heart Association and the ESC Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professionals (CCNAP). Circulation. Published online July 29, 2013 (doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e31829c2e53).
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofApril 3, 2017
Current as of: April 3, 2017
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