Definition of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure also known as hypertension is a medical condition that is characterized by an elevation of pressure or force of blood against the walls of the arteries as it flows through them. It is represented as systolic and diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and diastolic is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests in between the beats.
A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. A reading higher than 130/80 is considered high and can increase the risk of serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.
A study shows that almost half of the adults in the United States live with high blood pressure and it occurs most commonly in males.(1)
Importance of Discussing the Impact of High Blood on Male Sexual Health
Hypertension can have a significant impact on the sexual health of a man.
High blood pressure damages the blood vessel and nerves that are responsible for sexual arousal and function.(2) This may lead to erectile dysfunction and reduced sexual desire. These may impact the quality of life of an individual.
Discussing the impact of high blood pressure on male sexual health can help men to take steps to manage their blood pressure and reduce the risk of occurrence of sexual problems.
How High Blood Pressure Affect Male Sexual Health
Explanation of the Link Between High Blood Pressure and Sexual Dysfunction in Men
Hypertension damages the blood vessel and nerves that play a role in the sexual health of a man.
The process of achieving and maintaining an erection involves an interaction between the nervous system, hormones, and blood vessels. During sexual arousal, a chemical known as nitric oxide is released from the penis. This causes the blood vessels to relax and widen, allowing more blood to flow into the penis resulting in an erection(13)
If a person has high blood pressure the blood vessels get damaged and less responsive to the signals from the nerves. This reduces the blood flow in the penis making it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection. Hypertension can also lead to atherosclerosis or fatty plaque buildup in the arteries. This can further reduce the blood flow to the penis and increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.
Also, a few medications such as beta blockers and diuretics used in the treatment of blood pressure, contribute to sexual dysfunction by reducing the flow of blood to the penis or by causing hormonal imbalance.(3)
Specific Sexual Health Problems Caused due to High Blood pressure
There are several sexual health problems a male can suffer from due to high blood pressure.
- Erectile Dysfunction: Erectile dysfunction is an inability to maintain an erection during sexual activity. Males with hypertension are twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction compared with those without.(4)
According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, males with higher diastolic pressure and lower systolic pressure are less likely to experience erectile dysfunction.(5)
- Reduced Sexual Desire: Males with higher blood pressure experience a decrease in sexual desire due to fatigue, anxiety, and depression. There may be a hormonal imbalance that may contribute to reduced libido.
Libido is closely linked with the hormone testosterone and males with hypertension are known to have lower levels of testosterone(6,7)
- Premature or Delayed Ejaculation: High blood pressure affects the nerves and muscles involved in ejaculation and may lead to premature or uncontrolled ejaculation. Some with high blood pressure may also experience delayed or absent ejaculation.
- Retrograde Ejaculation: In retrograde ejaculation, the semen is forced back into the bladder instead of being ejaculated through the penis. This occurs due to the weakness that occurs in the muscles due to high blood pressure.
Not all men with high blood pressure would experience sexual health problems.
Medications and High Blood Pressure
How Medications Treating High Blood Pressure Impact Male Sexual Health
There are several medications that are used to treat high blood pressure. These medications work by lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow, but can also have effects on sexual health.
- Beta-blockers: These medications reduce the heart rate and reduce the force of the heart’s contractions. This reduces blood pressure. These can also reduce the flow of blood to the penis, leading to erectile dysfunction.(8)
- Diuretics: Diuretics are also known as water pills and work by increasing the output and lowering the blood pressure levels. These can lower the blood flow to the penis leading to erectile dysfunction.(9)
- ACE Inhibitors: ACE inhibitors relax the blood vessels and lower blood pressure levels. These can decrease libido and inhibit ejaculation.(10)
- Calcium Channel Blockers: These work by relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the force of the heart’s contractions, thereby lowering the blood pressure. These reduce the blood flow to the penis and can cause erectile dysfunction.(11)
- Alpha Blockers: Alpha blockers relax the blood vessels and reduce soft muscle contraction. These can cause erectile dysfunction by decreasing the blood flow to the penis.(12)
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Sexual Health
Lifestyle Changes to Improve Sexual Health and Blood Pressure
There are a few lifestyle changes that can be helpful in improving sexual health as well as lowering blood pressure.
- Regular Exercise: Regular physical activity can be helpful in reducing blood pressure and so can it be helpful for sexual health.
Doing moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes daily can be helpful.
- Eating Healthy Diet: A diet low in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar, and high in fruits, vegetables, and while gains can be helpful in improving blood pressure levels.
The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet and can benefit sexual health as well.(13)
- Managing Stress: Stress contributes to high blood pressure and can affect sexual function.
Engaging in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help in managing stress and improve sexual health.
- Quitting Smoking and Limiting Alcohol Consumption: Smoking damages the blood vessels and reduces the blood flow and can impact sexual health. Quitting smoking can improve overall health.
Excessive alcohol consumption contributes to high blood pressure levels that can affect sexual health. Consuming alcohol in moderation can help improve blood pressure as well as sexual health.
- Getting Adequate Sleep: Not sleeping well can contribute to high blood pressure and affect sexual health. Getting adequate sleep can improve sexual health and improve sexual function.
Alternative Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction
There are a few alternative therapies that can be helpful in treating high blood pressure and penile injections. These treatments improve the flow of blood to the penis and can be effective in improving erectile dysfunction.
- Vacuum Erection Devices: These are noninvasive devices that use a vacuum to draw blood into the penis and create an erection. There are plastic tubes placed over the penis and a pump to create a vacuum.
On achieving an erection, a constriction ring is placed on the base of the penis to maintain it.
A vacuum erection device is safe and effective for men but can cause discomfort and bruising.
- Penile Injections: Penile injections involve injecting medication into the penis to improve the blood flow and create an erection.
The medication is a vasodilator that relaxes the blood vessel and allows more blood to flow into the penis.
Alternative treatments should be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional as they may not have the same effect on everyone.
Talking to a Healthcare Professional
Importance of Discussing Sexual Dysfunction with a Healthcare Provider
It is important to discuss sexual dysfunction with a healthcare provider, especially if someone has high blood pressure and is taking medication.
- Sexual dysfunction can be a sign of an underlying health condition such as high blood pressure or heart disease. A healthcare provider can help identify the underlying health condition and provide appropriate treatment.
- Also, medication treating blood pressure can cause sexual dysfunction as a side effect. Informing a healthcare provider about it can be helpful as he can change or alter the dosage of the medication.
- There are several treatments available for blood pressure and sexual dysfunction including lifestyle changes, medications, and alternative therapies. A doctor can be the best advice on what to choose and go ahead with.
Discussing problems with the healthcare professional can be helpful in improving the quality of life of a person, and improving self-esteem and relationships. A doctor can refer the person to a specialist such as a cardiologist, urologist, endocrinologist, or sexual health specialist depending on the person’s needs to improve sexual health.
High blood pressure impacts sexual health and leads to erectile dysfunction and decreased libido. Also, the medications used to treat blood pressure may contribute to decreased sexual health. There are several treatment options such as lifestyle changes, medications, and alternative therapies that can help in treating sexual dysfunction due to high blood pressure.
It is important for a person to speak to a healthcare professional and get evaluated for the underlying conditions and explore an appropriate treatment.
Working with a healthcare professional can be helpful in improving high blood pressure and sexual dysfunctions and improving the overall quality of life of an individual.
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