High Blood Pressure Can Contribute to Erectile Dysfunction

High Blood Pressure Control Improve Sexual Health
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Hypertension is associated with a variety of other medical conditions. Erectile dysfunction is one condition you may not generally think of as associated with high blood pressure, but both hypertension AND medications used to control blood pressure can cause this common disorder.

Erectile Dysfunction Is A Common Problem

A large study, the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, found that by the age of 40 years, forty percent of men reported some level of impairment of their sexual function, including erectile dysfunction, abnormal (premature) ejaculation, or decreased libido.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the most common of these disorders in American men.  Although many men fail to reach an erection up to 20% of the time, ED refers to an inability to achieve or sustain an erection more than 50% of the time. Another study found 30% of men with high blood pressure have ED.

How An Erection Occurs

To understand how hypertension can affect sexual function, it's helpful to know a bit about how an erection occurs. First, the brain must be stimulated by something in the environment or by fantasy. The brain activates the nervous system, causing the release of chemicals called neurotransmitters. This results in relaxation of the arteries to the penis, which quickly fills with blood. The increased pressure also causes the veins to collapse, trapping the blood in the tissues. The process reverses as soon as blood flow returns to normal. A chemical called nitric oxide is also released during an erection, which causes relaxation of the blood vessels in the penis.

How Hypertension Can Interfere With Erection

How does high blood pressure change this process? Hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes are all associated with narrowing of the arteries over time. Men who have high blood pressure may also have low testosterone, the male hormone important for sexual arousal.

Men who have hypertension may have other risk factors for erectile dysfunction, like smoking, which can cause an additive effect.  Smoking increases blood pressure and reduces blood flow.

Diuretics and Beta-Blockers May Contribute to ED

Medications used to treat hypertension include diuretics and beta-blockers, both linked to erectile dysfunction. Diuretics, sometimes known as "water pills," may cause reduced flow to the penis and they can also cause loss of zinc, a mineral needed to produce testosterone. Beta-blockers are another common type of blood pressure medication that can cause problems with erection. Beta-blockers interfere with the part of the nervous system that regulates dilation, or widening, or the arteries. These common medications can also have a sedative effect that may diminish the ability to become sexually aroused.  

What Can Your Do If You Suspect Your Blood Pressure or Blood Medicine Is Causing ED?

If you have hypertension, you can reduce your risk of complications that include ED by making lifestyle modification.

If you smoke cigarettes, your should ask your doctor for help in quitting. Control your blood pressure to avoid progressive damage to your blood pressure by reducing your salt intake, losing weight, and getting regular exercise. If your blood pressure is not controlled by these measures, you will need medication.

There are many different types of effective medication for treatment of high blood pressure If you are using a diuretic or a beta blocker and you are experiencing sexual dysfunction, ask your doctor about a change. ACE (angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors), angiotensin receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, and alpha-blockers work through different mechanisms and are less likely to cause ED. 

Your Doctor Can Advise You of The Best Option to Avoid ED Caused by High Blood Pressure

ED is a treatable problem and your doctor can help you determine how to reduce your risk while controlling your blood pressure. Healthy lifestyle choices or a change of medication can restore enjoyment to your sex life. 

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