DEAR DR. ROACH: Is it still OK for me to engage in sex? Four years ago at a checkup, I was found to have three blocked arteries in my heart. I was shocked, but was told I needed surgery right away. My husband was not happy about it and moved into a guest bedroom. He said he did not want a woman with a scar on her chest. Since he doesn’t want me, I am ready to move on. — L.I.O.
ANSWER: Safety of sexual intercourse after heart surgery or diagnosis of heart disease often is a concern for patients and their partners. Fortunately, in most people with heart disease, sexual activity is safe. Sexual activity is generally safe after a successful heart surgery. It is unsafe within a few weeks of a heart attack, in people with heart pain (angina) that is more than mild, or for people with severe heart failure or uncontrolled blood pressure. If the situation isn’t clear, a stress test is sometimes used to determine what exercises are safe after a heart attack or other cardiac event, such as surgery. Regular exercise in people with heart blockages reduces the risk of a heart attack. A supervised exercise program, called cardiac rehab, is appropriate for people with more severe disease.
Some partners have difficulty reconciling their desire not to hurt their partner with their desire for sex. Most times it can be worked through with communication.
READERS: The booklet on stroke explains this condition that is deservedly feared by all. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 902, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.