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Is sex safe after heart attack?

Published On: Dec 29 2011 09:32:37 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 14 2014 09:43:35 AM CST
Couple bed sex

iStock / Synergee

Hammad Khan, Contributing writer

Research has shown that sexual activity often decreases after a heart attack due to the fear of having another one, which could cause a person's death. But research has proved that this common perception among the masses today is quite wrong.

Experts say the belief that sexual activities can lead to a second heart attack consists of a little bit of truth, but research suggests that it is largely exaggerated. People can have sex after their heart attacks. In fact, the more you exercise -- including having sex -- the better your odds.

As a safety precaution, "You sort of have to test yourself on the sidewalk before you test yourself in the bedroom," says Dr. Gerald W. Neuberg, cardiologist and director of the intensive care unit at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. "Sex is physically therapeutic. Like other regular physical activity, it's heart-healthy -- good for your circulation, metabolism, and reducing future heart-disease risk."

In 1996, a team of scientists at Harvard University conducted a study of more than 800 heart attack survivors. Their results, published in the JAMA, showed that the chances of having a heart attack while having sex were about two in a million in the subjects who already had and survived one attack. The study also found that the people who exercise have lesser chances of having a heart attack than those who do not.

"While there is some truth to the mythology," said Murray Mittleman, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and an author of the 1996 study, "the absolute increase in risk is so small that for the vast majority of people it should be one less thing to worry about."

After having a cardiac arrest once, there must be several changes in a person's lifestyle to lead a better and normal life and to prevent another one from happening. Those people who were sedentary sluggards certainly can't afford to continue their lives like that. They need to start regular exercise. Exercise strengthens the heart, burns calories and raises stamina. It also improves the mental health of the patients, who may be in a state of depression and anxiety.

Light workouts are also permitted for these patients.

"While it is generally accepted that exercise training for people with coronary artery disease improves vascular function, controversy still exists regarding the right level and right format of exercise," said Dr. Margherita Vona, lead author of a study.

Heart patients should also cut back on food that is bad for their heart and arteries. Food that contains excessive fats are not supposed to be consumed. Mostly, the heart-healthy foods are vegetables. Salt is also supposed to be used as little as possible in their diets.

Those patients who smoke also have to break that habit, which is extremely dangerous for them, in order to prevent a second heart attack. The patients also have to consume different kinds of medicines and tablets to keep the cholesterol level of their bodies low and also to keep the density of their blood low. This prevents the blood from clotting in any part of the body.