Older women want doctors’ help in facing fears about
sex after heart attack
Despite fears of another heart attack or dying, many
women in study started having sex within a month after their heart
July 26, 2013 – Older women think it would be
easier to overcome their fears of sex after having a heart attack if
their doctors gave them more information, according to new research in
the Journal of the American Heart Association. The women surveyed had an
average age of 60 and were married or in long-term relationships.
“Most women don’t have discussions with their
doctors about resuming sex after a heart attack even though many
experience fear or other sexual problems,” said Emily M. Abramsohn,
M.P.H., the study’s lead author and a researcher at the University of
Chicago. “We wanted to get a better understanding of women’s sexual
recovery and how it could be improved.”
Researchers surveyed 17 women in depth about their
sex lives before and after their heart attacks. The women were selected
from the TRIUMPH trial (Translational Research Investigating Underlying
Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Patients’ Health Status), a
large, multi-state study of health and sexual outcomes after heart
The women, average 60 years old, were married or in
long-term relationships. Researchers found that after their heart
● Most women and many of their partners were
afraid to have sex again. They wondered when it was safe to resume sex
and how much exertion their hearts could handle.
● Despite this fear, most women resumed having
sex, many within four weeks.
● Most women wanted to have sex to be close to
their partner again and get back to a “normal” life.
● Of the few women who talked with their doctors
about resuming sex, most initiated the discussion and were not happy
with the quality of information they got.
Cardiologists could ease concerns about sex after a
heart attack if they talked openly with their patients about what to
expect, Abramsohn said. The discussion should start while the woman is
still in the hospital and continue throughout her recovery with other
members of her healthcare team.
“It’s important for you and your partner to know
you’re not alone in your confusion and fear about returning to sex after
a heart attack,” Abramsohn said. “If your doctor isn’t giving you
information to help you feel more comfortable about it, it’s important
for you to ask them for it.”
Co-authors are: Carole Decker, R.N., Ph.D.; Brian
Garavalia, Ph.D.; Linda Garavalia, Ph.D.; Kensey Gosch, M.S.; Harlan M.
Krumholz, M.D.; John A. Spertus, M.D., M.P.H.; and Stacy Tessler Lindau,
M.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and
the National Institute on Aging, agencies within the National Institutes
of Health, funded the study.
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