Heart Failure and Sexual Activity

Topic Overview

Most people with heart failure can still have an active sex life. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about having sex. If you have mild heart failure, your doctor will likely say that sex is safe for your heart. If you have more severe heart failure, your doctor will likely check your health to make sure sex is safe for you.1

Tell your doctor if you're having heart failure symptoms when you have sex.

How to make sex easier on your heart

  • Avoid sexual activity when:
    • It's very hot or humid outside.
    • You're under stress.
    • You've just had a meal.
  • Don't drink alcohol for at least 3 hours before sex.
  • Stop if you feel lightheaded or have chest pain, palpitations, or a fast heartbeat.

Get help for problems

Unfortunately, many people with heart failure also have sexual problems. Your interest may drop, or you may have shortness of breath or other symptoms that limit your ability to have sex. Men may have erection problems.

If you take a nitrate medicine, do not take an erection-enhancing medicine such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra). Combining these medicines can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.

You can get help for erection problems or other sexual troubles.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Levine GN, et al. (2012). Sexual activity and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 125(8): 1058–1072.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Stephen Fort, MD, MRCP, FRCPC - Interventional Cardiology
Last Revised April 26, 2012

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