Sexual-health and Blood Pressure: Is There a Worrying Link?

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

Sex and Blood Pressure
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Hypertension often shows no signs or symptoms. What makes early detection and management of hypertension necessary is that this condition can affect more parts of your life than you can see and recognise. What if we told you there is a connection between sex and blood pressure? Want to know how high blood pressure affects your sex life? Are there any precautions that you need to take? Read on to find out.

Contents:
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    What is High Blood Pressure?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Sex and High Blood Pressure: What’s the Link?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Do Hypertension Medications Affect Sexual Functioning?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Does Sex Increase Blood Pressure?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition where your blood pressure (the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of your blood vessels) constantly stays high (≥ 140/90 mm Hg). Your blood pressure can vary depending on two factors, the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the resistance offered by your blood vessels. 

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels and organs. It can lead to various complications such as heart failure, aneurysm, kidney damage, heart attack, and stroke. It may also take a toll on your sexual health. Let’s find out how.

Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range is important for your overall health. Long-standing hypertension can impact the normal functioning of your body. It can harden and damage your blood vessels, affecting blood circulation. 

Healthy blood vessels are flexible, strong, and elastic. The inner lining of the blood vessels is normally smooth, allowing a smooth flow of blood to supply nutrients and oxygen throughout your body.

High blood pressure gradually damages the lining of your arteries, making the blood vessel walls weak. Eventually, they lose their elasticity and limit the blood flowing through them. High blood pressure may also lead to tears in the artery walls, which cause fat or plaque deposits to accumulate (atherosclerosis) in these spaces, narrowing your arteries. 

When blood is unable to flow through a blocked artery, it can cause damage to the tissue or organ it is supposed to reach. This can cause damage to various organs and their functioning, including sexual dysfunction. Let’s understand how high blood pressure can affect your sexual health and what are the challenges.

For Men

Over time, high blood pressure limits the blood flow to the reproductive organs. Limited blood flow to the penis can make it difficult to achieve and maintain erections. This condition is called erectile dysfunction and is fairly common. Even a single episode of erectile dysfunction can lead to anxiety and the fear of it happening again can prevent the male partner from getting intimate with the female partner. This can affect personal relationships and emotional well being.

For Women

In women, long-standing high blood pressure is shown to affect sexual satisfaction and orgasms. This results from the reduced blood supply to the tissues lining the vagina. It can lead to a lower sex drive and dryness of the vagina. 

High blood pressure may also lower nitric oxide levels. Nitric oxide is a chemical that helps smooth muscles relax and a reduction in its levels can cause reduced arousal, difficulty achieving orgasm, and vaginal dryness in some women. 

The fatigue resulting from high blood pressure levels may also cause a lower libido and less interest in sex in women.

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Do Hypertension Medications Affect Sexual Functioning?

Though medication taken for hypertension is beneficial in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and in lowering the risk of complications such as heart diseases, it may cause certain side effects such as a low sexual drive. This is more common in those who are already taking sexual performance enhancement drugs. Hypertension medications that may affect your sexual drive or sexual function include:

Diuretics

Diuretics are commonly prescribed drugs for high blood pressure. They work by removing excess salt (sodium) and water from the body through urine. This lowers your blood volume, thereby reducing your blood pressure. 

In some cases, these drugs can decrease forceful blood flow to the penis, causing problems with erection. Diuretics can also lower the levels of zinc in the body, which is essential for the normal functioning of the primary male sex hormone, testosterone.

Beta-Blockers

They block the action of hormones such as adrenaline that prepare your body for exertion during episodes of stress. Blocking the action of these hormones lowers the strain on your heart and normalises the heart rate and blood pressure. 

Your blood pressure is reduced because your heart is not working so hard. Beta-blockers can also relax your blood vessels so the blood flows better.

Though these medications are beneficial in lowering blood pressure they are found to increase the risk of sexual dysfunction by reducing the blood flow to the penis. Therefore, you should inform the doctor of any medication you take regularly and if sexual performance issues arise after the intake of blood pressure medication, seek immediate medical attention.

Does Sex Increase Blood Pressure?

Now, the question arises if it is safe to engage in sex if you have high blood pressure.

Though the initial excitement phase while engaging in sexual activity does lead to an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure, it is usually a very small increase and not a matter of concern for those who have their blood pressure levels in control. 

Those who have severely high blood pressure or those in whom the high blood pressure is not controlled by treatment should consult their doctor on how often they can engage in sexual activity and what positions they can opt for.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition where your blood pressure constantly stays high (≥ 140/90 mm Hg).
  • Uncontrolled hypertension can take a toll on your sexual health. It can damage your blood vessels. This can lead to plaque deposits along the blood vessel walls, narrowing them and limiting the blood flow.
  • In men, limited blood flow to the penis can make it difficult to achieve and maintain erections. Women may experience a low sex drive and difficulty to climax due to a limited blood supply to the tissues supplying the vagina.
  • Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as diuretics and beta-blockers, can affect the blood flow to the penis and cause problems with erection. It can also lower the levels of zinc in the body, which is essential for the normal functioning of the primary male sex hormone testosterone. 
  • Before taking any medications, make sure that you are aware of any side effects that they can cause. Also, make sure that your doctor is aware of your complete medical history before moving ahead with any treatment. 
  • Though engaging in sexual activity does lead to an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure, it is usually a very small increase and not a matter of concern for those who have their blood pressure levels in control. 
  • Those who have severe or uncontrolled hypertension should consult their doctor on how often they can engage in sexual activity and what positions they can opt for.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management Program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat low/high blood pressure problems together.

Frequently Asked Questions

The exertion during sex does cause a temporary increase in your blood pressure, especially during the initial excitement phase. But it does not cause a significant change in your blood pressure levels. However, those who have uncontrolled hypertension should consult their doctor on how often they can engage in sexual activities and what positions they can opt for.

Your heart rate and blood pressure rise during masturbation until they reach their peak during orgasm, after which they start falling to normal levels. Hence, masturbation is unlikely to cause a considerable increase in your blood pressure levels even if you have high blood pressure.

It is completely ok to engage in sexual activity with high blood pressure, provided your blood pressure is under control. If in doubt, you can consult a doctor about your blood pressure levels and sexual activity.

Yes. Studies have shown that individuals who engage in sex at least twice a week are found to have better heart health than others. Sex, like other activities, can improve your heart rate, boost your circulation and lower your blood pressure. It also keeps you relaxed, reduces stress, and promotes good sleep.

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