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Sexual Counselling for Individuals With Cardiovascular Disease and Their Partners

Elaine E. Steinke PhD, APRN, FAHA, Chair, Tiny Jaarsma PhD, RN, FAHA, NFESC, Co-Chair, Susan A. Barnason PhD, RN, APRN-CNS, CEN, CCRN, FAHA, Molly Byrne BA, MSc, PhD, Sally Doherty PhD, CPsychol, Cynthia M. Dougherty PhD, ARNP, FAHA, Bengt Fridlund PhD, RN, RNT, NFESC, Donald D. Kautz PhD, RN, CRRN, CNE, Jan Mårtensson PhD, RN, NFESC, Victoria Mosack PhD, APRN, Debra K. Moser DNSc, RN, FAHA
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/eht270 eht270 First published online: 29 July 2013


After a cardiovascular event, patients and their families often cope with numerous changes in their lives, including dealing with consequences of the disease or its treatment on their daily lives and functioning. Coping poorly with both physical and psychological challenges may lead to impaired quality of life. Sexuality is one aspect of quality of life that is important for many patients and partners that may be adversely affected by a cardiac event. The World Health Organization defines sexual health as ‘… a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences ….’1(p4) The safety and timing of return to sexual activity after a cardiac event have been well addressed in an American Heart Association scientific statement, and decreased sexual activity among cardiac patients is frequently reported.2 Rates of erectile dysfunction (ED) among men with cardiovascular disease (CVD) are twice as high as those in the general population, with similar rates of sexual dysfunction in females with CVD.3 ED and vaginal dryness may also be presenting signs of heart disease and may appear 1–3 years before the onset of angina pectoris. Estimates reflect that only a small percentage of those with sexual dysfunction seek medical care;4 therefore, routine assessment of sexual problems and sexual counselling may be of benefit as part of effective management by physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers.

  • AHA Scientific Statements
  • cardiovascular disease
  • sex
  • sex counselling
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