February 13, 2009

Sex after a heart attack considered

After a heart attack, some people are hesitant about when to resume sex, but U.S. physicians say this is an important topic to discuss with doctors.

One of the toughest issues to address with patients is talking about sex, Dr. Cam Patterson, chief of cardiology at the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, said in a statement. People are understandably reluctant to talk about something so private. But it's really important because there are so many wrong assumptions made.

The most common assumption is that sex will cause another heart attack, but once the doctor has cleared a person for sex, the risk is low, Patterson said.

However, partners should both be aware of the symptoms experienced with the first event and agree to stop intercourse if any symptoms occurs, Patterson said

It's also important to know about metabolic equivalents, known as mets. A met is the amount of energy the body uses during physical activity.

We use exercise testing to assess tolerance for exercise and sex, Dr. Paula Miller of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Sexual intercourse requires 2 to 3 mets during the preorgasmic state and 3 to 4 mets during orgasm -- about the same as walking 2 to 4 miles an hour on a level surface, Miller explained.

This gives the patient some confidence when having intercourse, Miller said.