Heart Health Behind the Bedroom Door

Surprising symptoms of heart disease behind the bedroom door

By Laxmi Mehta, MD

You feel it when that special someone walks into the room. Your heart begins racing; butterflies swirl around in your stomach. It’s that little thing called love.

Of course, being in love makes you feel amazing, but there are scientific studies to back up these feelings—being in love really is good for your health. When you’re around your loved one, whether you’ve been together for months or for years, your blood pressure drops, your stress levels decline, and your mood is elevated. Touching and being intimate with your partner may even improve your immune system and keep you from getting sick.

As winter transitions to spring, aka the “season of love,” more couples are spending quality time behind closed bedroom doors. But here’s something you might not suspect: that heart flutter you feel in your partner’s arms could be a first sign of heart trouble. As a cardiologist, I’ve had many patients tell me they first noticed heart-related issues in the bedroom.

If you or your partner notice any of the following signs of heart disease while in the bedroom, pay attention. Maybe even make your next date a trip to see the doctor together.

Chest Pain During Intercourse. For some patients the first time they discover chest pain is during inter­course. The reason is that this type of pain is exertional, the kind of chest pain that results from severe plaque buildup. Some people are relatively inactive and don’t experience chest pain at rest but can with intercourse, which may be the most active or exertional thing they do. If you are having chest pain with intercourse, even if it is mild or brief, seek medical attention.

Hot Flashes. While the frequency and severity of hot flashes vary, some women get them more often at night. Women have an increased risk of heart disease if they experience frequent hot flashes at an earlier age or go through menopause during an accelerated time frame. This is true regardless of the time of day a woman experiences hot flashes. When you are going through menopause, talk to your doctor about your risk of developing heart disease.

Erectile Dysfunction. There is a strong link between erectile dysfunction (ED) and heart disease. The two conditions even share many of the same risk factors. Men with ED are likely to have symptoms of heart disease within the next five years. If a young, healthy man is having erectile dysfunction, he should also be screened for heart disease.

Snoring. Snoring can be a warning sign of heart issues among both men and women. If snoring causes lapses in breathing, it could be a sign of sleep apnea, a condition that prevents restful sleep and is linked to stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms. So, go ahead and ask your partner, “Do I snore?”

Heart Palpitations While Resting. If you notice your heart beating faster than normal, flip-flopping, or skipping beats while you are lying in bed, you may be at risk of heart disease. Most people experience palpitations at one time or another, which can be frightening but is typically not serious except in rare cases. If the palpitations feel different or you notice frequent extra beats while resting, you should see a doctor.

So take heart. These symptoms are nothing to be embarrassed about, and they are good reasons to see a cardiologist. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, and it’s important to identify and treat symptoms early.


 

Laxmi Mehta, MD, is the clinical director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Health Program and assistant professor of clinical medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and the associate program director for education for Ohio State’s Center for Women’s Health. Dr. Mehta earned her medical degree at Northeastern Ohio University College of Medicine and completed her residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in clinical cardiology at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. Dr. Mehta also underwent additional training in advanced cardiac imaging at the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center at Wil­liam Beaumont Hospital. Dr. Mehta is an avid promoter and educator on women’s cardiovascular health and has published a number of peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. In addition to focusing on women’s cardiovascular health, Dr. Meh­ta specializes in echocardiography, cardio­vascular computed tomography, and car­diovascular magnetic resonance imaging.