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Your heart attack experience can be an especially distressing time for both yourself and for your family

Family members and other loved ones may struggle to come to terms with your health scare and it is likely that they will feel scared and anxious about you having another heart attack. Close family members may also be experiencing other emotions such as fear, sadness, guilt and anger.

It is important for you to recognise that many of the feelings you and your family experience are normal reactions to your heart attack. Family/whānau are often more anxious than the one with the heart problem. It may help your partner and family to use this website to learn more about heart attacks.

Helen Thompson-Carter - loved ones concerns after a heart attack


Communication is very important for keeping families close and well-connected. Many couples and families go through life without saying how much they care about the other. Some couples and families say that having a heart attack brought them closer because they realised how important they are to each other.

It is necessary for everyone to talk honestly and freely about what they’re feeling. No one, including children, should be excluded from the conversation. You may not be aware that children can often blame themselves when their parents become unwell, so it is important to explain to them what has happened and why it has happened.

Having open and honest conversations may not only reduce episodes of stress; it may also encourage closeness and emotional support that heart attack survivors need.

We discussed as a family the need to make changes to support dad in his recovery. This included exercising more and eating healthier. Its been really good and we are all feeling better for it.Julie
It’s like living with a volcano, I’m afraid to say anything in case he goes off!Julie
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Organise a family talk

Did you know?

People who live together often share the same risk factors. Why not change these as a family / whānau? You can support each other. Try working together to set goals and action plans..

Preparing a will

You don’t have to wait for a life changing event or a health scare to write your will, but if you haven’t done so already you may wish to think about what you would like to happen when you die eg. your funeral plans, how your dependent children will be provided for and what you want to happen to your property or possessions you may have. A will is basically a document that describes what you want to happen in the event of your death and lists any instruction you want carried out.

If you want to find out more information on how to write a will contact the Citizens Advice Bureau on 0800 367 222


Many people worry that if you have heart disease or particularly if you’ve had a heart attack sex will put too much stress on your heart and cause damage or another heart attack. However, most people can safely return to sexual activity after they have been diagnosed with heart disease or are recovering from a heart attack.

Sex is no different from any other kind of exercise. It is good for your heart. Getting sexually aroused will not hurt you. Nor will an orgasm.

Erection Problems

A lot of men with coronary artery disease or diabetes have problems with erections (impotence) before coronary artery disease is discovered. Stopping smoking, exercising, losing weight and drinking less alcohol can often restore good erections.

Impotence or erection problems following a heart attack may also be a result of emotional stress and sometimes from taking certain medications such as beta-blockers. It is important to talk to your doctor if you think the medication is the problem. Your doctor may be able to adjust the dose.

Hormone levels are higher in the early morning and erections may be more reliable at this time.

Erection problems can also be due to a loss of confidence. Ask your doctor about medication to get and keep an erection, if this is a problem. Trying to make love before you are physically ready for it and failing can cause a loss of confidence, leading to problems.

Viagra, Avigra etc should be taken with caution when using some heart medications. Discuss with your health professional before use.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Glyceryl Trinitrate (GTN) spray interacts significantly with all medications used for Erectile Dysfunction. This combination can cause a large drop in blood pressure resulting in dizziness, fainting or even a heart attack. You should not use GTN spray within 24 hours of taking erectile dysfunction medication. If presenting with chest pain you must inform medical staff if you have used erectile dysfunction medication within the last 24 hours.

Marie Young talks about sexual activity

Sex safety tips

If sex brings on angina attacks use your nitrate spray prior to making love

  • Avoid sex within two hours of eating a heavy meal or having a lot of alcohol
  • If you have had surgery, avoid putting too much pressure on your chest in the first 4-6 weeks
  • Choose a time when you are rested and relaxed, start slowly and let intimacy build before starting intercourse
  • Find a comfortable position, ask your partner to take a more active role
  • Ensure the room and bed is warm
Did you know?

Partners of people with coronary artery disease are often worried about damaging the other person and may try to avoid sex. If one partner tries to avoid sex, or is less willing than usual, the other can feel rejected or angry. They may feel that they are no longer attractive or loved. If you can, it is best to talk honestly with your partner about your feelings.

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Speak to my partner about sexual activity

Continue the journey

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