Heart Attack Patients Leave Hospital 'Not Knowing' It's Safe To Have Sex, Says Study

10/05/2012 13:00 BST | Updated 20/08/2012 11:32 BST

What do Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give, Desperate Housewives' Bree Vanderkamp’s cheating husband Rex, and Mad Men’s advertising boss Roger Sterling have in common? Answer: A libido their hearts just can’t handle.

But while men having heart attacks during sex is a common enough plot device, experts suggest in the land of non-fiction, guys with heart conditions aren’t receiving enough advice about the relative safety of having sex.

A new report published in The American Journal Of Cardiology reports that just one third of women and 47% of men surveyed for a new study, reported receiving hospital discharge instructions about resuming sex. And those who were not given guidance reported a decline in their sex lives.

Lead author, Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medicine, in a statement: "Receiving instructions, prior to hospital discharge, about resuming sex was a major predictor of whether patients resumed sexual activity in the year following acute myocardial infarction (heart attack)."

She added: "The discharging cardiologist is best positioned to advise on the safety of engaging in physical activity, including sex."

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Current US guidelines suggest heart patients whose condition has stablised can resume sexual activity within one week.

In January, the American Heart Association (AHA) put more weight behind those recommendations with its most comprehensive review to date of research on sexual activity among heart patients.

The report substantiated a longstanding rule of thumb: If patients can engage in moderate exercise – such as walking up a couple of flights of stairs – they are generally healthy enough for sex.

"Doctors need to understand the significant role they play in helping patients avoid needless fear and worry about the risk of relapse or even death with return to sexual activity," said Lindau in a statement

In reality, only about 1% of all heart attacks occur during sex, according to report in Senior Journal, and few of those are fatal.

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