A study has found that most heart attack patients do not receive counselling regarding when to resume sexual activity.
To conduct the study, a team from University of Chicago interviewed 3,501 heart attack patients in 127 hospitals and one month later by telephone in August 2008-January 2012 in the US and Spain.
The patients' median age was 48 years and two-thirds were female.
One month after their heart attacks, only 12 percent of women and 19 percent of men reported they received sexual counselling from their health care provider - though most reported that they were sexually active within the year before their heart attack.
"Even with life-threatening illness, people value their sexual function and believe it is appropriate for health care providers to raise the issue of resuming sexual activity," said Stacy Tessler Lindau, associate professor and director of the programme in integrative sexual medicine at University of Chicago's medical centre.
In rare instances, when health care providers counselled about sexual activity, they often recommended restrictions more conservative than medical guidelines.
For example, those patients given restrictions more most often told to limit sex (35 percent), take a more passive role (26 percent) or to keep their heart rate down (23 percent).
"Health care providers should let their patients know that for most it is OK to resume physical activity, including sexual activity and to return to work," Lindau said.
"They can tell their patients to stop the activity and notify them if they experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other concerning symptoms. If the health care provider does not raise the issues, I encourage patients to ask outright: 'Is it OK for me to resume sexual activity? When? Is there anything I should look out for?" she added.
"When the topic of sexual function is left out of counselling, patients perceive that it is not relevant to their medical condition or that they are alone in the problems they are having in resuming normal sexual activity," Lindau said.
The study appeared in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.