As if dealing with a heart problem isn’t difficult enough, many sufferers also complain that the condition has a devastating effect on their sex life.
Unfortunately heart conditions can have a damaging affect your sex life. Some patients put the drop-off in sexual activity down to the emotional strain of living with a heart condition; while others say that fear having a heart attack during the act has turned them off completely.
The effects of medication are also a big factor. Many men with heart conditions complain that a side effect from the drugs prescribed is erectile dysfunction. Now, a leading charity is urging the health community to engage in a greater conversation about the topic, so that suffers can tackle the problem and get back to living normal lives.
Reasons for avoiding sex
The British Heart Foundation estimates that more than a million people in the UK have forgone sex altogether following diagnosis of a heart condition.
A survey by the organisation of around 1,500 patients with heart problems found that sex was taken off the menu because:
- Medication had caused erectile dysfunction (46%)
- Fear of having a heart attack during sex put them off (20%)
- Patients didn’t feel like it due to the emotional impact of their condition (14%)
But despite the seemingly widespread nature of the problem, the researchers found that almost one in three people keep the matter to themselves, refusing to discuss the issue with their doctor or anyone else. And sadly, one in 10 (8%) said they would like support and advice from a professional but do not know where to turn.
This has prompted calls for more discussions about the link between heart health and sex. One of the major reasons given by heart patients for their disrupted sex life is erectile dysfunction. Much like some heart conditions, erectile dysfunction can be caused by a narrowing of the arteries, but to the penis rather than the heart. In fact, the arteries supplying the penis are the same size as the arteries supplying the heart, so if there are problems in one area there are likely to be problems in the other.
Risk factors for erectile dysfunction
This usually occurs because blood vessels have been clogged with fatty deposits. A number of factors increase the risk of this occurring:
- being overweight
- being inactive
- poor diet
The side-effects of certain medications can also result in erectile dysfunction. Drugs that alter a person’s hormone levels, or affect their nerves and blood circulation can cause erectile dysfunction. If you’re worried you may have symptoms linked to erectile dysfunction why not try our free assessment by clicking the link below:
Get it out in the open
More than seven million people in the UK suffer from conditions affecting the heart and circulatory system, according to the charity. And with around 32% of the survey saying that their heart condition has reduced how often they have sex, it becomes increasingly important to put the link between heart health and sex on the agenda.
BHF senior cardiac nurse Doireann Maddock said:
“Sex is a hugely important part of life, but isn’t getting the attention it deserves in the consultation room.
“We’re hearing loud and clear from Heart Matters readers that they need better support and information on how to deal with issues affecting their sex lives.
“Problems like erectile dysfunction can often be tackled and rectified, but the first hurdle is identifying people who need that help.
“We’d like patients to feel comfortable and empowered to raise these issues, and for the NHS to proactively offer support in this area to everyone who needs it.”