High blood pressure (hypertension) is common, with nearly half of all American adults having it.
What you probably know about high blood pressure is that it’s bad for your health – it raises your risk of heart disease and strokes. But what about your sex life? Can high blood pressure affect erectile dysfunction (ED)?
Here’s what you need to know. We’ll explain the different ways high blood pressure can impact your sex life and what you can do about it.
What is blood pressure?
Picture a network of arteries and veins (blood vessels) inside you that are filled with blood. As your blood presses against the inside of these vessels it creates pressure. This is your blood pressure – the force of your blood pressing against your blood vessels.
When you have your blood pressure measured, you usually see two numbers. This could be something like 130/80.
The first number (your systolic blood pressure), is the pressure your blood exerts on your vessels as your heartbeats. This number is usually higher, as when your heart forces your blood around your body, the pressure increases.
The other number (your diastolic blood pressure), is the pressure of your blood in your vessels between heartbeats. Think of it like your resting blood pressure.
What counts as high blood pressure?
What counts as hypertension has changed recently. In 2017 the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association defined high blood pressure as 130/80 and above.
How can high blood pressure affect your sex life?
High blood pressure and sex are intimately linked, and not in a good way. Hypertension can cause ED, but it can hamper your sex life in other ways too:
High blood pressure and erectile dysfunction - can high blood pressure give you erectile dysfunction?
High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels over time – it can make them narrow and harden, reducing blood flow. If the flow of blood to your penis is reduced too much, it can make it difficult for you to get or keep an erection (erectile dysfunction). This means that hypertension could give you ED or worsen it.
Some high blood pressure meds also cause erectile dysfunction
To make matters worse, some high blood pressure meds can also cause ED as a side effect. Beta-blockers and diuretics (water pills) can cause ED or make it worse. They can also cause other sexual problems as side effects, like making it difficult for you to ejaculate.
What blood pressure medication does not cause erectile dysfunction?
Calcium channel blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, and angiotensin II receptor blockers are less likely to cause ED or other sexual side effects than some other hypertension medications.
High blood pressure sex drive problems
Hypertension in men has also been associated with low levels of testosterone. Low testosterone can also cause or worsen ED, and it can lower your desire for sex as well.
High blood pressure and ejaculation problems
A reduced flow of blood to your penis can also make it harder for you to ejaculate, potentially making sex less satisfying. Ejaculation problems and other dysfunctions can also be blood pressure medication side effects.
Does lowering blood pressure help ED?
If high blood pressure is causing or contributing to your ED, then yes, lowering your blood pressure can help. It can improve the flow of blood to your penis and it may even help boost your testosterone levels. If your ED is caused by something else however, like a psychological issue, then lowering your blood pressure may not help with your ED.
How to lower your blood pressure and boost your sex life
If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to lower it to improve your overall health and to stop if affecting your sex life. You can try the following:
Make lifestyle changes to lower your blood pressure
A lot of men manage to reduce their blood pressure by making positive lifestyle changes, like:
- Losing excess body fat
- Eating a healthy diet focusing on whole grains, vegetables, fruit, low-fat and low-sugar dairy, and lean meats
- Reducing the amount of salt (sodium) in your diet
- Quitting smoking
- Reducing how much alcohol you drink
- Exercising regularly – 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week can be enough to lower your blood pressure
- Finding healthy ways to manage and reduce your stress
These changes may be tough, we know. But not only can they reduce your blood pressure, but they can also improve your overall health, your quality of life, and reduce your risk of other problems, like type 2 diabetes. You can talk to your doctor to get advice on making these changes, and to ask for resources and support to help you.
Switch to blood pressure meds that don't cause ED
Talk to your doctor if you think your blood pressure medication is causing problems with sex or making them worse. Your doctor may choose to switch you to a med that’s less likely to cause sexual problems as a side effect.
Try an ED medication
If you have high blood pressure erectile dysfunction, prescription medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) can be effective treatments. They can be taken safely with most blood pressure meds, but it’s sensible to talk to a medical professional about using an ED medication alongside any other meds you take.
Can you take Viagra if you have high blood pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, you can’t take Viagra, and other ED medications, alongside some other medicines, like nitrates. But it’s usually fine to take ED meds with blood pressure meds. It’s a good idea to talk to a medical professional about how ED meds could affect any other medicines you’re taking, just to be sure.