Researchers analyzed survey data from about 3,000 men and 3,700
women aged 50 and older, including 376 men and 279 women with heart
Among heart disease patients diagnosed less than four years before
the survey, both men and women were much less likely to report
having any sex in the past year than their counterparts without
"We cannot say for certain what the causes of these differences in
sexual activity are," said lead study author Andrew Steptoe, of the
British Heart Foundation and University College London.
"My suspicion is that it is a mixture of caution and nervousness on
the part of patients and their partners, reinforced in some cases by
medical advice to take things slowly," Steptoe said by email.
Overall, about 79 percent of men and 55 percent of women in the
study said they were sexually active, Steptoe and colleagues report
in the journal Heart.
Men with heart disease diagnosed in the past four years were 76
percent less likely to have had sex in the past year than men
without heart problems. Women diagnosed within this time frame were
56 percent less likely to say they were sexually active in the past
year than women without heart disease.
The people with heart disease were significantly older than the
other participants. They were also less likely to be married or
living with a partner.
Among those diagnosed within the last four years, men were 45
percent less likely to report thinking about sex at least twice in
the past month than their peers without heart trouble. Women were
also less likely to think about sex this often, but the results for
women with heart disease were too similar to those from other women
to rule out the possibility that differences were due to chance.
Recently diagnosed men were also more than twice as likely as men
without heart disease to report erectile difficulties, the study
Medication may explain this for some men in the study.
Men prescribed diuretics to help them urinate or statins to lower
cholesterol were much more likely to report erectile dysfunction.
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The study wasn't designed to prove that heart disease causes
erectile difficulties or other sexual health problems, the authors
note. For many survey questions, there also wasn't a big enough
difference between people with and without heart disease for the
results to be statistically meaningful.
Even so, the findings suggest that doctors may want to talk to heart
disease patients about resuming sexual activity after their
diagnosis, the authors conclude.
It's possible that at least some of the reduced sexual activity
reported by people with heart disease in the study was because they
were older than the participants without this diagnosis, noted
Elaine Steinke, a researcher at Wichita State University in Kansas
who wasn't involved in the study.
Heart disease patients may also express concerns about sexual
activity if they have recently experienced symptoms such as chest
pains or shortness of breath and have anxiety or fear about sex,
Steinke said by email.
Some patients are afraid that engaging in sex may be too much for
their heart, Steinke said. "This is particularly true for those who
have had a heart attack," she added. "Reassuring patients that being
concerned about sexual activity is normal, and (advising them to
ease) back into sexual activity, can allay their fears."
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/28MczJJ Heart, online April 28, 2016.
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