A decline in sexual activity with age is a misfortune shared by all. However, victims of a heart attack often bear the brunt of it as their sexual drive fizzles out after such an event. Now, findings by Stacy Tessler Lindau and colleagues have shown that among 18 to 55 year olds, it is the women who face greater problems after an acute myocardial infarction (AMI).
The study released on the 31st of August, 2016, shows that more women face sexual impairments after an AMI than men. And in cases the victim had no sexual problems prior to the heart attack, it was the women who were more likely to develop a sexual difficulty.
The study also found that in cases the heart patients didn’t consult about sex with a doctor in the immediate month after the AMI, the time taken to reengage in sexual activities was delayed.
Titled “Sexual Activity and Function in the Year after an Acute Myocardial Infarction among Younger Women and Men in the United States and Spain”, the study was published in the journal JAMA Cardiology. Researchers found that among the people who were sexually active before a heart attack, 64% of males had reported a restart of their sexual activities within a month.
While a significantly fewer women, 54.5% to be exact, reported to have resumed within the same time period. However, by the end of a year starting from the heat attack, significant proportions of both the populations had regained their sexual activities — 94% men and 91% women.
The research was a prospective study which observed 2,802 individuals from the year 2008 to 2012. Three interviews were conducted: one at the start of the study, another after a month since the heart attack, and the last one was a year after the AMI. The participants were from US and Spain. The team started the delayed analysis in the year 2014 and finished it just this year.
Commending the team’s effort, Kevin P Weinfurt suggested there should be a “corresponding commitment from physicians to address sexual functioning with their patients” in a comment paper accompanying the original research. Kevin is a professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine.
According to him, the major benefits of the research are: it highlights the significance of a patient’s sex life; it stresses the need of proper communication of a patient’s sexual activities to the doctor; it shows a doctor can better help patients if given the information stated; and lastly, it brings the patients’ sexuality into the cardiac research domain.
The reviewer goes on to clarify the perils of a functional problem when it comes to sex. Kevin states that sexual problems pose an exceptional problem as they are so hard to communicate. Such issues can create a distance between the couples, with the one facing the difficulties more likely to feel guilty and lonely.
However, because such sexual issues brought upon by AMI are not accompanied by the characteristic shame involved in other sexual predicaments, a doctor can play a big hand. A physician can significantly assist the patient by ‘normalizing’ their circumstances and helping them stabilize their relations.
After a heart attack, people start to refrain from sexual activity out of the fear of putting their hearts under stress during the sex, but the American Heart Association vouches that one can safely engage in sex after his/her heart’s condition has stabilized.
However, this is not all how heart problems can ruin a patient’s sex life. High blood pressure is known to cause erectile dysfunction in men. Medication for high blood pressure itself can decreases the blood flow to penis and contribute to erectile dysfunction.
The complementary problems in women, caused by heart problems, are less understood. Primarily, however, it’s thought to lower a female’s libido. In some women, the issue may be more specific, like struggling to achieve an orgasm or need for adjunct lubrication.
And this precisely is the field which could use more research, according to Kevin. Women’s sexuality in the wake of heart attacks needs a lot of research. And eventually such efforts need to be transformed and incorporated into therapeutic efforts.