Sex is good for the heart — even after a heart attack, researchers say.
"The likelihood of dying during sexual intercourse, even among people who have had a heart attack, is really small," said lead researcher Dr. Stacy Lindau of the University of Chicago in a press statement.
But many people pointlessly become prudes after surviving a heart attack, researchers reported today at the American Heart Association's Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke. A third of men and 60 percent of women abstained the year after a heart attack.
In the movies, mind-blowing sex often becomes heart-stopping sex. But in real life, there is little need for such worries.
Most physicians consider sex safe once the patient is feeling up for moderate exercise. After all, "sexual activity is a moderate physical activity," said senior researcher Dr. John Spertus of the University of Missouri in Kansas City.
But talking about exercise isn't nearly as uncomfortable as talking about sex.
And people are especially timid about getting in the sack if they haven't gotten an explicit go ahead from their doctor. As a result, sexual activity — an important part of anyone's quality of life — tends to decline the year after a heart attack, the researchers say.
In the study of 1,760 acute heart attack patients, less than half received information regarding sex. Women, in particular, were unlikely to receive advice on when, or if, to resume sex.
This lack of communication carried over to the bedroom. Men were 1.3 times and women 1.4 times more likely to report a diminished sex life if they hadn't been offered advice on the subject from their doctors.
Doctors, patients and their loved ones should proactively bring up questions about sex, Spertus told LiveScience.
"The goal is to restore people's total health," Spertus said. "Not only by minimizing the risk of the next heart attack but also by maximizing quality of life."
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Robin Nixon is a former staff writer for Live Science. Robin graduated from Columbia University with a BA in Neuroscience and Behavior and pursued a PhD in Neural Science from New York University before shifting gears to travel and write. She worked in Indonesia, Cambodia, Jordan, Iraq and Sudan, for companies doing development work before returning to the U.S. and taking journalism classes at Harvard. She worked as a health and science journalist covering breakthroughs in neuroscience, medicine, and psychology for the lay public, and is the author of "Allergy-Free Kids; The Science-based Approach To Preventing Food Allergies," (Harper Collins, 2017). She will attend the Yale Writer’s Workshop in summer 2023.