Sexual problems more common among young women after heart attack

Impaired sexual activity and sexual function problems are more common among young women than men in the year following a heart attack, finds a study published in JAMA Cardiology.

Acute myocardial infarctions (AMIs) or heart attacks - occur among people between the ages of 18-55 years old. Out of those who are affected, one-third are women. And while heart attacks are already serious as they are, it seems that a study found there are more problems that occur after.

Among men and women 18 to 55 years of age, more than half of women and just under half of men had sexual function problems in the year after a heart attack, according to a study published online by JAMA Cardiology.

Stacy Tessler Lindau of the University of Chicago and her colleagues conducted research to analyze patterns of sexual activity and help identify indicators of the decrease of sexual activity in the year after their heart attacks. The team used data from the Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes of Young AMI Patients (VIRGO) study - a multicenter study of U.S. and Spanish patients that investigates the differences in the paths of recovery between men and women in the year after heart attack - which took place from 2008-2012.

They found that 40 percent of the sexually active women reported no sexual function problems in the year after their heart attack, but more women - 42 percent developed problems after, a significant margin compared to the 31 percent in men. Among the problems, as reported by Medical News Today include lack of interest (40 percent) trouble lubricating (22 percent), and difficulty breathing (20 percent). For men, on the other hand, the problems include erectile difficulties (22 percent), lack of interest (19 percent), and anxiety about sexual performance (16 percent).

Limitations of the study include that the findings relied on patient self-reporting, which may have introduced recall bias, and a higher proportion of partnered people in the analytic sample could produce an upward bias on the sexual activity and sexual problem estimates.

Finally, a larger sample size and additional data would be needed to examine the effects of specific comorbidities, medications, procedures, tests, and effects of rehabilitation, prolonged or rehospitalization, or a subsequent heart attack or other health events on sexual activity.

"The next step is to design the optimal intervention to improve sexual function outcomes after heart attack for men and women," said Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, associate professor of obstetrics/gynecology and medicine-geriatrics at the University of Chicago, who authored the research. "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."

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