Treat high blood pressure to save your sex life

High blood pressure or hypertension often presents with few if any symptoms.  Whether it is controlled by diet, weight loss, exercise or medications, sexual activity is still encouraged generally posing no immediate threat to health. However, sexual challenges may occur since hypertension can directly affect a man’s sex life and possibly a woman’s too.

That’s why anyone with high blood pressure, who cares about their sex life, should seek treatment for it. Good management of blood pressure can reduce unnecessary threats to enjoy satisfying sexual intimacy.

Sexual challenges men face with high blood pressure

High blood pressure is when your blood travels through blood vessels with more force than is considered healthy. When blood pressure is high, it can damage artery and blood vessel walls over time.  The interior of both blood vessels and arteries will begin to harden and narrow, restricting blood flow throughout the body. This restricted blood flow can lead to dangerous complications such as heart attack or stroke if left untreated. Since high blood pressure has no symptoms until you begin to experience complications, it is important to have it checked regularly.

This same hardening and narrowing of blood vessels and arteries mean less blood is able to flow to the penis. In order for a man to achieve an erection, there must be good blood flow. During arousal, if high blood pressure has caused blockages to the blood vessels leading to the penis, this impairs blood being held inside the penis to maintain an erection.  This results in men having difficulties getting and maintaining an erection known as erectile dysfunction.

Even ejaculation and sexual desire can be affected by medications used for high blood pressure. These medications can reduce sexual drive or make it more difficult to reach orgasm. Beta-blockers and diuretics (water pills) appear to cause the most sexual side effects.  Diuretics reduce forceful blood flow to the penis, making it difficult to achieve an erection. They also have the side effect of depleting the body of zinc, a mineral necessary to make the sex hormone testosterone.

High blood pressure medications that have the least sexual side effects include ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers, and calcium-channel blockers.

If you are using medication to control high blood pressure and you are experiencing sexual side effects, discuss your concerns with your doctor. Do not stop using the medication without first consulting with your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor of all medications you are taking, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Taking several combinations of medications along with high blood pressure medications could also be contributing to sexual dysfunction.

Sexual challenges women face with high blood pressure

High blood pressure and how it affects women sexually is not as well understood like it is in men. But it seems plausible that uncontrolled hypertension could interfere in this intimate part of a woman’s life.

Just like men, women experiencing high blood pressure will have reduced blood flow to their genitals, namely the vagina. A 2001 study found that uncontrolled hypertension causes the inactivation of nitric oxide, a chemical helping smooth muscles relax which in women, can lead to:

  • Reduced libido or sex drive
  • Difficulty achieving orgasm
  • Vaginal dryness

Symptoms such as these can be anxiety-provoking and distressing to women. Its important women discuss these issues with their doctors to work on ways of treating these problems.

Steps for controlling high blood pressure

Living with high blood pressure does have to end your sex life. Working closely with your doctor to get blood pressure under control will help overcome most sexual challenges.

The first important step is to live a healthy lifestyle. Here are basic lifestyle habits everyone should be doing to lower blood pressure and potentially improve your love life:

  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Reduce sodium intake to no more than 2300 mg a day
  • Lose weight if necessary. A weight loss of just 10 pounds can significantly impact blood pressure
  • Exercise at least 150 minutes each week doing a combination of aerobic, strength training, flexibility, and balance
  • Avoid smoking and all use of tobacco
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink

A second step to take is to review the current medications you take that may be interfering with sex drive or sexual function. For instance, water pills (diuretics) can reduce forceful blood flow to the penis inhibiting achieving an erection. They also deplete the body of zinc, necessary for making testosterone. Anyone on beta-blockers such as propranolol are commonly associated with sexual dysfunction.  Discuss with your doctor other medication options available that have few if any sexual side effects.

Thirdly, take time to enjoy your partner’s company and time to relax.  Relaxation by enjoying activities together can be powerful way to improve sexual response when intimate. Take time for small things like watching a sunset together, listening to music, giving each other a massage, or taking a walk. Sharing meaningful moments opens up communication helps build a pleasurable sex life and a healthy heart.

Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board-certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.

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