A new consensus statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) urges health-care providers to counsel patients and their partners about resuming sexual activity following a cardiac event or stroke.

The scientific statement, by Elaine E. Steinke, PhD, APRN, and others was published online ahead of print in the AHA journal Circulation. The authors recommend that clinicians routinely: assess all patients after a cardiac event and during follow-up visits to determine whether the person is healthy enough to resume sexual activities; give individualized, structured counseling based on specific needs and medical condition; and discuss how to be intimate without having intercourse, when to resume sexual activity, and even recommended positions.

Among many other recommendations, the AHA/ESC document advises that clinicians review patient medications to consider any impact on sexual function; encourage patients and their partners to use comfortable, familiar settings and positions to minimize cardiac stress associated with sexual activity; and instruct the patient to report any symptoms he or she experiences with sexual activity.

Female cardiac patients may be especially grateful for such discussions, based on the findings of a recent telephone-interview study involving 17 partnered women who resumed sexual activity within four weeks after having suffered a heart attack. Emily M. Abramsohn, MPH, and co-investigators reported in Journal of the American Heart Association that sexual problems and concerns were prevalent among the women and their partners, but few of the women received counseling about such matters or about the safety of returning to sex.