Impaired Sexual Health and Function Common among Younger Adults after Heart Attacks

Impaired Sexual Health

According to a study published online by JAMA Cardiology, of men and women between the ages of 18 to 55, more than half had sexual function problems within the year after experiencing heart attacks.

The Study

The study revealed that nearly 20% of cases of acute myocardial infarctions (AMIs; heart attacks) occur among people between the ages of 18 to 55; of this 20%, one third is women. Little is known about the subjects’ sexual activities or functions after the heart attack, but the majority of were sexually active before the AMI occurred.

Stacy Tessler Lindau and her colleagues from the University of Chicago studied data from a multicenter study of American and Spanish patients ranging between the ages of 18 and 55. The study, titled the Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes of Young AMI Patients (VIRGO), was created in order to observe how the recovery of men and women differs in the year following a heart attack. Sexual activity and sexual function were among the differences investigated.

What This Means

Though men were more likely to resume sexual activity after a heart attack than women after one year, 22% reported having difficulties achieving or maintaining an erection and 19% had a lack of interest in sex. Meanwhile, 40% of women reported having a lack of interest in sex while 22% had difficulty with lubrication, making these two the most prevalent problems for this gender.

The study also found that participants who, one month after the heart attack, chose not to discuss their sexual health issues with a physician had been more likely to delay resuming sex.

In both the U.S. and Spain, it was women who were less likely to receive counselling regarding the continuation of sexual activities following a heart attack. In addition to that, there were certain indicators—such as increased levels of stress and the presence of diabetes—that suggested the likelihood of the loss of sexual activity after an AMI.

Tessler Lindau, S. et al., “Sexual Activity and Function in the Year after an Acute Myocardial Infarction among Younger Women and Men in the United States and Spain,” JAMA Cardiology, August 31, 2016;, last accessed September 6, 2016.