Male patient in a doctor's office.

Sex Under Pressure: Understanding how Blood Pressure Affects Erectile Functioning

High blood pressure does not have to interfere with your sex life.

The relationship between cardiovascular problems, such as high blood pressure, and erectile dysfunction (ED) is well-documented by medical research. In fact, ED is often the first sign of high blood pressure or other heart-related conditions. However, men with high blood pressure can still have fulfilling sex lives.

Read ahead to learn more about the relationship between high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.

Blood Pressure & Sexual Functioning

Left untreated, high blood pressure can have devastating effects on men’s sexual health. Persistent high blood pressure damages the lining of the body’s blood vessels, causing the arteries to harden (a condition known as arteriosclerosis). In turn, arteriosclerosis reduces blood flow throughout the body, making it more difficult for blood to flow to the penis.

Over time, men with high blood pressure may find that erections are harder to achieve and maintain. Having even one incident of erectile dysfunction (ED) can create anxiety surrounding sexual activity. This is one reason why it is important for men to speak with their doctor if they experience ED.

Women’s sexual health can also be impacted by high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause fatigue and a loss of libido in women. It can also reduce blood flow to the pelvis, making it more difficult for a woman’s body to respond during sexual activity.

Managing Blood Pressure

Older couple performing yoga outside.High blood pressure often goes unnoticed until it impacts sexual health or is caught at a routine medical visit. Those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure can manage their condition with lifestyle modifications and prescription medication. Managing blood pressure can also help to improve sexual health that has been negatively impacted by high blood pressure.

The following actions are recommended to manage high blood pressure:

  • Routinely check your blood pressure
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Reduce sodium and alcohol intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Engage in regular physical activity
  • Quit smoking
  • Take medications as directed

Medication Use

It is important for men with cardiovascular conditions to take their medications as prescribed by their doctor. However, some blood pressure medications may inadvertently cause ED symptoms in men. ED symptoms are a common side effect of diuretic blood pressure drugs, such as thiazide diuretics and loop diuretics. Beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure may also cause ED. However, it is rare for ACE-inhibitors, alpha-blockers, and angiotensin-receptor blockers to cause ED in those with high blood pressure.

Those who suspect their blood pressure medication may be interfering with their sex life should speak with their doctor about additional treatment options.

A Healthy Sex Life

Smiling couple touching foreheads.

High blood pressure does not have to condemn men’s sex lives. Simply making a few lifestyle adjustments (e.g. diet and exercise) and taking the right medications can lead to both improved blood pressure and increased sexual satisfaction. Men who are concerned about their blood pressure and ED symptoms should speak with their medical provider about their best treatment options.

It is generally safe for men taking blood pressure medications to also use prescription lifestyle medications. ED drugs containing sildenafil (e.g. Viagra), vardenafil (e.g. Levitra), or tadalafil (e.g. Cialis) can often taken alongside blood pressure medications. These drugs should not be taken with medications containing nitrates.

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