Monday, May 24, 2010


It is true that doctors are shy people and often have difficulty talking about the issue of sex, much more so in the Asian context. Yet sex forms a very important part of many peoples' life, even though they maybe 50, 60 or 70 years old. One cannot say that we have fully recovered from a heart attack inless one have fully return to ones own regular activity ( those activity level as it was prior to the heart attack. More so with all the new interventional technigue that allows fuller and faster recovery.
At the recent AHA sponsored meeting on " Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke 2010, Prof Stacy Tessler Lindau, a professor of OG and also medicine and geriatrics, from the University of Chicago, presented an interesting paper entitled " Translational Research Investigating Underlying Disparities in Recovery from Acute Myocardial Infarction: Patients' Health Status (TRIUMPH) study. ( What a nice and appropriate acronym ). In this paper, she described a study of 1184 males and 516 females, and interviewed them on their sexual habits before the index heart attack ( obviously these people were from from on-going research, as we cannot predict anheart attack ), following discharge from the index heart attack, 1 year later following the heart attack and more then 1 year later. She found that most of the patients were still sexually active before their heart attacks. That at discharge less then half were given counselling on sex after the heart attack. At 1 year, less then half of the patients were having regular sex, but by 2 years, many had returned back to their usual sexual habits. It also clearly shown in the study, that males are more likely to talk about sex and to raise the subject then females, and less females care for sex after their heart attacks.
The lesson I learn is that sex is part of normal life and age is no barrier. Even following a heart attack, many still wish to have sex. However, because of lack of cardiac counselling, immediately follwoing the heart attack, many were cautious, did not know what to do, and so refrain from doing, just in case. After 1 year, the urge to have sex is strong and so they experiment and continue, and return to their normal habits.
For those who wish to know, it is OK to have sex following a heart attack, once your doctor allow you to return back to moderate activity. Basically, if you can climb 2 flights of stairs, sex should not be an issue. It may be wiser for the non-heart attack partner to take a more active role. It would be good to avoid viagra. These advice are eaier to give now that angioplasty has improved the outcomes following a heart attack, allowing aptients to return back to their normal life style faster, and that includes sex.
As for doctors, the take home message must be that we should spend more time counselling our patients following their heart attacks and that includes talking about their sex life.

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