You probably know blood pressure is a vital number to monitor and the dangers of not keeping it under control. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) can lead to many health problems, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure. However, did you also know that high blood pressure can cause problems in your sex life too? Let’s discuss high blood pressure and how to lower it to get your sex life back on track!
What is High Blood Pressure?
Your blood exerts a certain amount of force along the arterial walls as it travels through your arteries. This force is blood pressure. The higher your blood pressure, the more force your blood places on your artery walls.
Your blood pressure is checked when you visit your doctor’s office and the nurse gives you two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure, the first number you hear, refers to your blood pressure when your heart is beating.
- Diastolic blood pressure, the second number, is your blood pressure between heartbeats or when your heart is resting.
120/80 or “120 over 80” is normal blood pressure!
These guidelines from the American Heart Association can help you determine if your blood pressure is high:
|Systolic Number||Diastolic Number|
|Normal||Less than 120||Less than 80|
|Elevated||120 – 129||Less than 80|
|High||130 or higher||80 or higher|
How Can High Blood Pressure Affect Sex?
For most people, good blood flow to the genitals is necessary for sexual response. High blood pressure can damage the linings of your blood vessels, leading to plaque buildup and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). When this happens, it’s more difficult for blood to flow to essential body parts.
Since blood flow to the penis is what causes an erection, many men with high blood pressure develop erectile dysfunction meaning they can’t get or keep an erection firm enough for sex.
Men with high blood pressure might have problems with ejaculation and desire too.
Reduced blood flow to the genitals can also be an issue for women, interfering with desire, arousal, vaginal lubrication, and orgasm.
Anxiety over high blood pressure and its associated health problems can affect the sex lives of anyone. High blood pressure can weaken relationships as couples may have less desire for sex or may not feel satisfied during or after sex.
Sexual Side Effects of Blood Pressure Medications
Unfortunately, medications used to treat high blood pressure can cause sexual problems too. For example, diuretics (water pills) can reduce blood flow to the penis and lower levels of zinc, which men need to make testosterone. Beta-blockers are another type of blood pressure drug that cause sexual side effects.
If you think your medication is causing sexual problems, talk to your doctor. It might be possible to adjust your dose or change the drug you take. Don’t make any changes without a doctor’s guidance, however.
Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control
Consider making these lifestyle habits:
- Stick to a healthy diet – Some people follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which includes lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You might also consider fat-free or low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. Ask your doctor or nutritionist which foods are best for you.
- Cut back on salt and sodium – Check the sodium content of the foods you eat. Processed foods tend to be high in sodium.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly – Talk to your doctor about a fitness plan. It helps to find an activity you really enjoy. If the gym isn’t for you, consider boxing, Zumba, aerial, or pole dancing classes. Any form of exercise can be fun with a group activity with friends!
- If you smoke, consider quitting – Try avoiding secondhand smoke as well.
- Reduce your stress levels – Blood pressure can rise when you’re excited or stressed. Find ways to relax and try not to overextend yourself with commitments. Ask your friends and family for help when you need it. Some people manage stress with meditation.
- Consider using a blood pressure monitor at home – A home monitor can help you keep tabs on your progress.
Your doctor can help you with these strategies and suggest others tailored to you. Please be sure to take any prescribed medication as directed.