We have to admit – sex does get our hearts pumping. But how does that extra exertion affect you if you have hypertension? Could it trigger a heart attack or possibly even a stroke? Even though the risks are very small – less than 1 percent of all heart attacks occur during sexual activity – sex could be dangerous for people with severe hypertension that isn’t under control.
Hypertension or high blood pressure has a ‘telling’ nickname: the “silent killer.” Most people are unaware of any outward signs or symptoms. However, it could affect your sex life without you realizing it. That’s because this “silent killer” could be wreaking havoc on your satisfaction and enjoyment of sex without you being aware that uncontrolled hypertension may be causing challenges in the bedroom.
Both men and women with elevated blood pressure can experience a difference in their love life and libido. In these cases, understanding why and how to overcome these challenges can bring back intimacy and sexual satisfaction, restoring a couple’s relationship.
Challenges for men with hypertension
One of the problems of having high blood pressure is the damage it can do to the lining of blood vessels. The extra pressure exerted on these vessels can cause arteries to harden and narrow (atherosclerosis), limiting blood flow. Reduced blood flow means less blood is able to flow to the penis.
For men with hypertension, this can make challenging to achieve and maintain an erection known as erectile dysfunction. High blood pressure may also interfere with ejaculation and reduce men’s desire for sex. Even the medications used to treat high blood pressure may have the same similar effects for men.
Men who are having episodes of erectile dysfunction may develop anxiety and fear of not being able to perform sexually, possibly leading to avoidance of having sex, negatively affect their relationship with their sexual partner.
Challenges for women with hypertension
For women, the effects of high blood pressure on sexual issues are not as well-understood. But there is the possibility that hypertension in women could have negative consequence for them also.
Just like in men, reduced blood flow means less blood flow to the genitals, and for women, this affects the vagina. Less blood flow can result in a reduced desire for sex, reduced sexual arousal, vaginal dryness, and difficulty in achieving an orgasm.
Women can also develop anxiety and relationship issues due to sexual dysfunction.
Overcoming the challenges of hypertension on sex
The first thing both men and women should do is discuss this matter with their doctor. Be aware that if you have untreated high blood pressure or it is still soaring despite being treated, your doctor may advise you to abstain from sex or other strenuous activity until your pressure is under control. However, treatment for high blood pressure and satisfaction with sex can go hand in hand if you are open about the problem and work closely with your doctor.
- Review medications
A beginning step is to review the side effects of high blood pressure medications that may be disrupting your sex life. Certain high blood pressure medications causing sexual side effects might include:
- Water pills or diuretics – These can decrease forceful blood flow to the penis resulting in erectile dysfunction. They also can deplete the body of zinc, a mineral necessary to make the sex hormone testosterone.
- Beta blockers – Propranolol is one type of beta blocker commonly associated with sexual dysfunction.
Ask your doctor about other medication options. For example, some high blood pressure medications are less likely to cause sexual side effects that include ACE inhibitors, Calcium channel blockers, and Angiotension II receptor blockers.
Men considering taking medication for erectile dysfunction should be able to do so safely, but they need to check with their doctor first.
- Practice healthy lifestyle choices
When men and women make healthy lifestyle choices, this can play a significant part in lowering blood pressure and potentially improving their love life. Healthy lifestyle choices include:
- Not smoking
- Consuming healthy foods
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Reducing sodium intake
- Losing extra weight if needed
- Exercising regularly
- Encourage satisfying sex
To help set the stage for a satisfying and fulfilled sex life, here are some ways in which to do this:
- Have open communication and dialogue on what each of you wants in your sexual relationship
- Initiate sex when you both are feeling relaxed and in the mood
- Explore ways to be physically intimate such as giving each other a massage
- Women with vaginal dryness can try lubrication in the form of a liquid or gel.
- Maintain physical affection even when feeling tired or upset. Engage in kissing, holding hands, or cuddling to strengthen the emotional and physical bond between you.
- Confide in each other about changes in your body. For example, for women, it might be hot flashes; for men, erectile dysfunction.
- Avoid criticizing. Focus on the positives, such as expressing, “I love it when you….” or approach a sexual issue as a problem to be solved together rather than an exercise in assigning blame.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.