After heart Attack, Sexual Problems More Common Than Depression

Henrietta Brewer
September 1, 2016

Almost 20 percent of acute myocardial infarctions (AMIs; heart attacks) occur among people 18 to 55 years of age, one-third of whom are women.

The VIRGO study includes data on sexual activity and function of heart attack patients from 103 USA hospitals and 24 Spanish hospitals.

Of the 2,802 patients included in the analysis, 1,889 were women (67 percent); median age was 49 years.

More women than men who reported no sexual problems at study baseline developed problems in the year after the heart attack.

Researchers analyzed data from 2,802 people in the USA and Spain who'd had a heart attack and who were tracked for the following year. After one year, 94 percent of men and 91 percent of women who were sexually active before their heart attack had resumed sexual activity.

The problem appears to be more common among women as the study said that more than half of women (59 per cent) and less than half (46 per cent) of men reported sexual function problems in the year after a heart attack. More than 20 percent of men experienced erectile difficulties (21.7 percent), and almost one in five males (18.8 percent) reported lack of interest.

Few men across all hospitals in both the USA and Spain reported the use of medications to treat erectile dysfunction at baseline, 1 month, or 1 year after a heart attack.

Another finding-that heart attack patients who hadn't talked to their doctor about sex were less likely to be having sex-may point to a way forward. In both countries, women were less likely to receive counseling about resuming sex at any time in the year after AMI (27 percent vs 41 percent for men). Higher stress levels and having diabetes were significant indicators of the probability of loss of sexual activity in the year after the AMI. "We now know what those problems are, so we can counsel patients on what to do and what to expect".

After an acute myocardial infarction (AMI), many younger adults experience sexual difficulties - and women more so than men, according to research published online August 31 in JAMA Cardiology.

"The rehabilitation phase begins with the cardiologist counseling the patient about her or his functional capabilities and what she or he can expect, including physical, psychological, and sexual function". But there's another, more positive way to look at them, Lindau says.

"We also require a corresponding commitment from physicians to address sexual functioning with their patients to manage patients' expectations and offer help when it is needed", he adds.

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