No sex for almost 50% of people with heart disease
ALMOST HALF of people with established heart disease in Ireland said they had not engaged in sexual intercourse in the past year, soon-to-be-published research has found.
Speaking last night in Galway at an event to mark the beginning of Croí – the West of Ireland Cardiology Foundation – open week, Dr Molly Byrne, director of the MSc in health psychology course at the National University of Ireland Galway, said there was evidence that sexual problems occurred at a higher rate in those with heart disease than in the general population.
“Patients would like these issues to be addressed in health services and, in general, would be reasonably comfortable discussing them, once the issues are raised by a health professional,” she said.
The survey of some 362 people with cardiovascular disease about their experiences with heart disease and sex is awaiting publication, along with a more indepth study of a smaller number of health professionals and patients. But the research team, which also includes psychologists from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, has recently published research involving GPs and staff in cardiac rehabilitation departments, in a study funded by the Health Research Board.
Some 70 per cent of GPs said they rarely or never discussed sexual problems with coronary patients and indicated that in general, they had only low levels of awareness of sexual problems among this patient group.
Among staff working on rehabilitation programmes for people recovering from a heart attack or after heart surgery, some 60 per cent believed sexual problems were poorly addressed in their service. They believe that patients do not expect them to ask about their sexual concerns.
Dr Byrne told The Irish Times that key recommendations for improving services include: training for health professionals; the availability of clear guidelines for health professionals about what should be done in this area; and the development of materials such as DVDs for use with patients. She also called for the development of specialist referral services for cardiovascular patients with sexual problems. The open week marks the opening of Croí House, a new facility dedicated to heart disease and stroke.