Heart Failure and Sexual Activity

Overview

Sex is part of a healthy life and is part of your quality of life. Most people with heart failure can still have an active sex life. You can ask your doctor to help you know if or when it's okay for you to have sex.

If you or your partner is worried about having sex, talk with your doctor about your concerns. Your doctor or another health professional can give you support and advice.

How to make sex easier on your heart

Sex is like any activity that makes your heart work harder. So you can try things that make sex easier on your heart.

  • Be well rested before having sex.
  • Avoid sexual activity when:
    • It's too hot or too cold.
    • You're under stress.
    • You've just had a meal.
  • Don't drink alcohol before sex.
  • Stop and rest if you have trouble breathing.
  • Stop if you feel lightheaded or have chest pain or pressure, palpitations, or a fast heartbeat.
  • Try other ways to be intimate that don't make your heart work so hard. These include hugging, cuddling, and kissing.

How to be safe

Tell your doctor if you're having symptoms, such as trouble breathing, when you have sex.

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

Get help for problems

Tell your doctor about any concerns you have about sex. Talk about physical problems that prevent you from having or enjoying sex. Talk about any fears or worries you have.

Counseling might be an option for you and your partner. It may include information and advice on how to start having sex again. Counseling may include support and ways to help you relieve anxiety or fear. It may include treatment for physical problems. The goal is to enjoy sex again.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: January 10, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Rakesh K. Pai MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine