Impaired sexual function or new problems occur at the same rate as a loss of general physical function and at a higher rate than the incidence of depression after heart attack, new research has found.
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.
“Too often physicians and researchers are too embarrassed to ask questions about sexual health, and yet these issues are important to many people,” said one of the authors in charge of the study Harlan Krumholz, Professor at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.
“We need to concern ourselves with gaining knowledge about how to help our patients achieve a high quality of life in all aspects of their lives,” Krumholz noted.
The participants in the study were from US hospitals. Of the 2,802 patients included in the analysis, 1889 were women (67.4 per cent); median age was 49 years.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, showed that if a physician talks to the patient about sexual health and function after a heart attack the patient is more likely to resume sex.
However, women were less likely to be counselled by physicians on what to expect and more likely to have problems with sexual function as they recover.
“The next step is to design the optimal intervention to improve sexual function outcomes after heart attack for men and women,” study author Stacy Tessler Lindau, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago, noted.