When is it safe to have sex after a heart attack?

There's a burning question nearly every heart attack survivor has, but almost none of them ask -- and it's not because they're afraid of the answer.

It's because they're too shy to even mention the topic!

It's time to overcome your embarrassment, because the answer to this essential question can be crucial to both your physical and mental health and may even play a key role in your recovery.

The question, if you haven't guessed it yet, is: When can I have sex again?

I can understand why folks are nervous about getting sexually active again, since even the anticipation is often enough to get the heart racing.

But in reality, most heart attack patients can safely have sex within days of coming home from the hospital, as long as they feel ready for it.

New research confirms what we've seen before: Sex won't cause a heart attack -- and if you've already had a heart attack, sex won't cause another one.

Of the 536 heart attack patients in the new study, only 0.7 percent had sex in the hour before their heart attack. And of the 100 heart problems that happened in the 10 years after those heart attacks, exactly none of them were linked to sexual activity.

In other words, it's just about one of the safest forms of activity you could do.

Of course, being physically able isn't the same as being mentally ready. And if you're just home from the hospital and feeling frail, sex might be the last thing on your mind.

But when the desire returns, follow the general rule of thumb for heart patients: If you can climb two flights of stairs or walk at a brisk pace, you can safely have sex again.

Once you're able, get back on track -- because sex isn't just a great way to keep close to your spouse. It can also help protect your ticker, with regular sex cutting the risk of a heart attack by as much as 50 percent.

Naturally, speak to your doctor first (don't be shy he's heard it all!) as there are other factors that can complicate things, and heart failure patients face a different set of rules altogether.