Sexual Disorders

High Blood Pressure and Sex: Overcome the Challenges

As much as 108 million adult Americans are living with hypertension. On the other hand, up to 26% of the men over the age of 40 experience erectile dysfunction.

So, the question is – Is there a link between the two conditions?

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, is a serious health issue. This issue refers to the increasing in the normal blood pressure levels to unhealthy levels. Blood pressure describes how much blood is passing through the blood vessels. Normally, there is some resistance that the blood meets while being pumped into the heart.

When measuring your blood pressure levels, there are always two numbers. First, there is the systolic blood pressure. The systolic bp marks the top number or the maximum pressure that the heart exerts while pumping blood. The bottom number marks the diastolic blood pressure. The diastolic bp refers to the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

The normal blood pressure is usually less than 120/80 mmHg. Naturally, these readings can go up and down. And so, patients with lower blood pressure levels measure less than 90 mmHg for the systolic blood pressure or 60 mmHg for the diastolic blood pressure. On the other hand, 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered to be high blood pressure or hypertension.

Hypertension usually develops over the course of a few years. You would be surprised to learn how many people are living with elevated blood pressure without any symptom. Even when there are no present symptoms, high blood pressure can lead to several serious health issues, including eye-, kidney-, and heart-related issues.

Unfortunately, hypertension is a health issue that we see quite often today. Did you know that almost half of the American population is living with high blood pressure? Living with uncontrolled high blood pressure is extremely dangerous.

When talking about such a serious issue, early detection is everything. These patients require proper care and regular blood pressure readings. Depending on your condition, the doctor may want to control your blood pressure levels over the course of a couple of weeks.

The treatment plan usually includes lifestyle changes and the use of prescription antihypertensive medication. Hypertensive patients have usually prescribed beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors such as angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics, among others.

Causes of high blood pressure

There are two different types of high blood pressure – primary and secondary hypertension. Of the two, it is the primary, also known as essential, hypertension that we see in most people. This type develops over time, with no evident cause.

Unfortunately, researchers still do not have the answer as to what causes the blood pressure levels to slowly increase over the normal blood pressure ranges. What they assume is the presence of a combination of factors. Genetics, environmental factors, and physical changes all play a certain role in the development of primary hypertension.

Speaking of secondary hypertension, this type is considered more severe and dangerous. It tends to occur and develop quickly and progress faster as compared to primary hypertension. The following issues may contribute to the development of secondary high blood pressure.

How can high blood pressure affect your sex life?

High blood pressure has a serious impact, not only on your heart health but your general health as well.

Both your physical and mental health is in danger because of the abnormal increase in your blood pressure levels. Understandably, not all of the health risks are equally dangerous. Stroke, heart disease, and heart attack remain to exist as the most dangerous of them all.

What you may not understand is that your high blood pressure may be the cause of your sexual dysfunction. As unlikely as it may seem, your sexual activity can decrease due to the existing heart-related issues. In fact, lower sexual activity may be one of the signs that indicate high blood pressure problems.

At the beginning of today’s topic, we mentioned how high blood pressure does not always cause clear signs and symptoms. That is why it is important to know what can go wrong with your body due to high blood pressure. This often includes your sexual activity as well. The link between sex and high blood pressure is often more obvious than you initially thought.

High blood pressure affects sexual activity in both female and male patients. However, we are still waiting on concrete scientific proof that confirms this link regarding female patients. On the other hand, there are tons of scientific studies that talk about high blood pressure and its link to erectile dysfunction and low sexual satisfaction in men.

Men

  • Arteriosclerosis: One of the most common complications of hypertension is arteriosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis refers to the hardening and narrowing of the arteries in the body. As a side-effect, the body’s blood flow is limited.

    In the case of arteriosclerosis, the penile blood flow is reduced. This means that there is less blood flowing to the penis and the penile arteries. Such an event leads to one of the greatest and most common types of sexual dysfunction in men – erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to the inability to achieve and maintain a healthy erection during intercourse.

  • Low libido: Another common problem that male patients with hypertension encounter are the lowering of their libido. It is not unlikely for the high blood pressure to interfere with the ejaculation, thus reducing the male sexual desire.

  • Depression: High blood pressure and erectile dysfunction may also lead to anxiety, depression, and relationship issues. All of these play a major role in the further lowering of one’s sexual desire and sexual activity. In addition, many antihypertensive drugs can cause sexual dysfunction in men. But we will discuss this after we are done covering the side-effects of high blood pressure in women and their sexual function.

Women

  • Hypertension: As we mentioned earlier, there is still no detailed scientific research that talks about the negative impact of hypertension on female sexual function. But doctors are still trying to explain the common events that they see in female patients battling hypertension.

  • Vaginal dryness: Like in men, high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis can reduce the blood flow to the vagina. In return, this may lead to vaginal dryness, low libido, and a decline in overall sexual function and satisfaction.

  • Depression: These events often lead to anxiety, depression, and relationship issues, similar to those experienced by men due to their existing sexual issues and hypertension. As expected, these events will further damage the woman’s sexual activity, reducing their sexual satisfaction.

Side-effects of high blood pressure medications

So, we mentioned some high blood pressure medication is listed as a potential cause for sexual dysfunction in men. In the majority of cases, we are talking about the use of diuretics and beta-blockers.

Diuretics can interfere with sexual function in more than one way. For starters, they can decrease the blood flow to the penis, thus causing erectile dysfunction. Their use can also deplete the body of zinc. Zinc is an essential mineral that is necessary for the production of testosterone. In case you did not know, testosterone is the main male sex hormone.

Having high testosterone levels equals strong sexual desire, hard erections, and good health. On the other hand, testosterone deficiency is directly linked to erectile dysfunction and a number of other health issues in men. Beta-blockers, too, can cause erectile dysfunction. Although it is usually the older generation beta-blockers that are linked to erectile dysfunction, all beta blockers carry the same risk.

Additional side-effects such as dizziness, cough, headache, fatigue, and digestive issues are possible as well. To reduce your risk of erectile dysfunction and other possible side-effects, we kindly recommend taking your medications as prescribed. In case you notice any side-effects whatsoever, do consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Erectile dysfunction drugs and high blood pressure

In the case of erectile dysfunction, the majority of men refer to a solution called sildenafil. Sildenafil is otherwise known as Viagra, a popular drug used by thousands of men.

Viagra helps men with erectile dysfunction to achieve a hard, long-lasting erection during intercourse. Viagra is one of the erectile dysfunction drugs that can be used in combination with high blood pressure medication. Levitra and Adcirca are available choices as well.

Whichever you end up choosing, you must consult your doctor first. Only upon getting their approval, it is possible to use the chosen medication risk-free. In the meantime, continue taking your hypertension drug as directed.

No erectile dysfunction medication is supposed to be taken in combination with nitrates in the case where hypertension drugs are being used. This can seriously threaten your life by causing a dangerous drop in blood pressure levels. Please do consult your doctor in case you are using any nitrates before you agree on using ED drugs.

How to naturally lower blood pressure and improve your sex life

Diet

  • Think about transforming your diet by incorporating more heart-healthy foods. Adding more plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, and Omega-3s is a good place to start.
  • Replacing unhealthy fats with healthy ones such as avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, fish, and poultry is a must. You should also consider lowering your salt intake and, instead, increasing your potassium intake. This is an effective blood pressure-lowering method supported by science.
  • As a general rule, make an effort to eat more whole foods and less processed foods. Brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oats make great additions to your meals. Make sure to also remove any refined sugars and carbs, fast food, and microwave dinners from your diet as well.
  • You may want to consider looking into the famous DASH diet, which is the usual diet plan prescribed by health specialists to those with hypertension.

Physical activity

  • A natural blood pressure-lowering method is daily exercise. You may not be a fan of it, but that does not change the fact that exercise is incredibly good for you.

  • Not only will exercise help regulate your blood pressure, but it will also help any male patients with hypertension to fight against erectile dysfunction. It has been scientifically proven that daily physical activity helps improve testosterone levels and relieve stress. By doing so, physical activity helps eliminate the symptoms of erectile dysfunction and any other type of sexual dysfunction.

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. You can choose whichever activity you prefer. Whether it is running, strength training, or simply walking, it does not matter as long as you love what you do. As long as you are sweating and heart rate is up, you are doing a good job at moving your body and burning off calories.

Stress

  • Stress reflects negatively on every single aspect of our health. Being under too much stress can disrupt your mood, sleep and even go as far as causing hypertension.

  • By doing so, stress puts you at the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and so many other health issues. But stress also impairs your sexual function by lowering your sexual desire and even causing erectile dysfunction in males.

  • While physical activity is a great stress reliever, other ways can help eliminate stress as well. Massage, yoga, meditation, tai chi, and deep breathing are all science-approved stress-relievers. And if these do not work for you, you can always consult a professional.

Overweight

  • Being overweight or obese is yet another factor that threatens your blood pressure levels and sexual function. However, by adapting to a more heart-healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity, it is possible to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This will, without a doubt, reflect positively on many aspects of your health.

  • Achieving a healthy weight will improve your self-confidence as well, thus relieving any body image-related anxiety and depression that you may be facing. This will reflect positively on your relationship as well as your sexual satisfaction and performance.

Smoking

  • Smoking, using illegal and recreational drugs, and alcohol all threaten your good health, including your sexual function and your heart health.

  • The chemicals found in tobacco can seriously damage your blood vessels, causing them to harden. This will directly cause your blood pressure to increase. Alcohol and drugs can also increase your blood pressure levels.

  • The only solution here is to stop practicing all of these unhealthy habits. Quit smoking and keep an eye on your alcohol intake. Ask for professional help if needed, especially in the case of drug use. Nowadays, many rehabilitation centers can help those struggling with smoking, alcoholism, and drug addiction.

Conclusion

High blood pressure is a challenging and potentially dangerous health issue. It is a health issue that reflects poorly on one’s physical and mental health. It even goes as far as affecting your sexual function as well.

Science has clear proof of all of the things that can go wrong with the male sex life due to high blood pressure. The question is – Is there a way to reverse the issue, thus reversing its complications as well? Hopefully, you have found the answer to both of these questions in today’s article.

Sources

  1. Singh, S., Shankar, R., & Singh, G. P. (2017). Prevalence and Associated Risk Factors of Hypertension: A Cross-Sectional Study in Urban Varanasi. International Journal of Hypertension, 2017, 1-10. doi:10.1155/2017/5491838
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5733954/
  2. Singh, S., Shankar, R., & Singh, G. P. (2017). Prevalence and Associated Risk Factors of Hypertension: A Cross-Sectional Study in Urban Varanasi. International Journal of Hypertension, 2017, 1-10. doi:10.1155/2017/5491838
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3357516/
  3. Hernández-Cerda, J., Bertomeu-González, V., Zuazola, P., & Cordero, A. (2020). Understanding Erectile Dysfunction in Hypertensive Patients: The Need for Good Patient Management. Vascular Health and Risk Management, Volume 16, 231-239. doi:10.2147/vhrm.s223331
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7297457/
  4. Viigimaa, M. (2014). Management of erectile dysfunction in hypertension: Tips and tricks. World Journal of Cardiology, 6(9), 908. doi:10.4330/wjc.v6.i9.908
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4176800/

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