Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is a condition in which the pressure of your blood against your artery walls increases to levels that can damage your bodily systems. It affects some 1 billion people across the globe, accounting for about half of all heart disease- and stroke-related deaths, and it’s the No. 1 overall risk factor for premature death.
What many people don’t realize, though, is that hypertension may also affect your sex life — whether you’re a man or a woman.
At Northwest Houston Heart Center, our fellowship-trained cardiologists, Dr. A. Adnan Aslam and Dr. Roy Norman, address all issues related to hypertension. Primarily, that involves the effects it has on your cardiovascular system, but they understand that by correcting the underlying problem, you can improve your health in other ways, such as having a more satisfying sex life.
The lowdown on blood pressure
Blood pressure measures the force of blood flow on the walls of the arteries that transport the blood from heart to body, and it’s reported as two numbers. The systolic pressure (in mmHg) is the number on top, and it represents the force of blood on the walls when your heart is actively beating. The diastolic pressure is the number on the bottom, and it represents the force of blood on the walls when your heart is at rest, between beats.
A normal blood pressure reading is equal to or less than 120/80 mmHg. The only way to tell if your pressure is normal or elevated is to measure it. While it naturally rises and falls over the day, if the numbers remain high, you’ll need treatment to bring it down to normal levels.
The hypertension-sex link
Even if you have hypertension, having sex isn’t likely to cause immediate health problems — you aren’t likely to have a heart attack. However, it can affect your satisfaction with sex.
Researchers have proved a link between high blood pressure and sexual problems in men. Women, too, may have decreased sexual satisfaction, but there’s not enough evidence to prove that high blood pressure is responsible.
Hypertension challenges for men
High blood pressure is often called a “silent killer,” because it usually causes no symptoms until you have a crisis like a heart attack or stroke. Over time, though, high pressure damages the lining of the blood vessels. In addition, a buildup of fatty plaque causes the arteries to narrow and harden, a condition known as atherosclerosis. The heart has to work harder to pump blood, and flow may be insufficient in some areas of the body.
For men with hypertension, the limited blood flow means less blood flows to the penis, making it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. The condition is known as erectile dysfunction (ED), and it causes mental symptoms as well as physical ones.
Being unable to perform in the bedroom even a single time can lead to anxiety, and the fear that the problem will happen again might lead some men to avoid sex.
Hypertension can also affect ejaculation, while some blood pressure medicines may lower your libido, or sex drive.
Fortunately, there are treatments for ED, as well as for hypertension. It’s important that you have a discussion with your doctor about treatment options to improve your quality of life.
Hypertension challenges for women
Doctors don’t know exactly how high blood pressure affects women sexually, but there is some kind of association. Hypertension may reduce blood flow to the vagina, causing the tissue to become less sensitive and dry. It may also lower levels of nitric oxide, which helps smooth muscles to relax. This may lead to:
- Lowered sex drive or arousal
- Difficulty having an orgasm
- Vaginal dryness
- Performance anxiety
- Relationship issues
Women should also have a discussion with their doctor about their problems or concerns.
Is your sex life not as robust as it should be? Hypertension could be an underlying cause. To ensure your cardiovascular health, schedule an evaluation with Northwest Houston Heart Center by calling us at any of our locations (Tomball, Cypress, Magnolia, and The Woodlands, Texas) or booking online today. You can also text us at 832-402-9518.