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Approximately 60% to 87% of patients with heart failure (HF) report sexual problems, and numbers as low as 31% of HF patients younger than 70 have normal sexual function. When compared with healthy elders, the amount of perceived sexual dysfunction might be similar (around 56%), but patients with HF are reporting more erectile dysfunction (ED) and also perceive that their HF symptoms (20%) or HF medication (10%) is the cause for their problems. The prevalence of ED is highly prevalent in men with cardiac disease and reported in up to 81% of cardiac patients, compared with 50% in the general older population. In total 25–76% of women with HF report sexual problems or concerns. The physical effort related to sexual activity in cardiac patients can be compared to mild to moderate physical activity. The related energy expenditure of sexual activity falls in the range of three to five metabolic units (METs), which can be compared to the energy needed to climb three flights of stairs, general housework, or gardening. Information about sexual activity is often overlooked by health care professionals treating HF patients. Advice and counselling about this subject are needed to decrease worries of patients and partners, avoid skipping medication because of fear for side effects, or prevent inappropriate use of potency enhancing drugs or herbs.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

Document Type

Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access