Overcoming the challenges of hypertension and sex

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Hypertension or high blood pressure is known as the “silent killer.” This is certainly true as most people do not know they have it due to no outward signs or symptoms of this condition.  However, one area of your life it may be making its presence known is in how it is affecting your sex life.  This “silent killer” could be wreaking havoc on your satisfaction and enjoyment with sex without you being aware that it could be the problem.

When it comes to hypertension and sex, there is a known link between it and sexual problems in men.  The link in women with high blood pressure and who are experiencing reduced sexual satisfaction has not been proven as strongly that elevated blood pressure is to blame. What is known is that a diagnosis of hypertension may be causing some challenges in the bedroom.

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 more pressure exerted on these vessels can cause arteries to harden and narrow (atherosclerosis) which will limit the flow of blood.  When the flow of blood is reduced, this means less blood is able to flow to the penis. 

For men with hypertension, this means it can make it more difficult to achieve and maintain an erection or experiencing erectile dysfunction.  High blood pressure can also interfere with ejaculation and reduce sexual desire.  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 which could lead to avoidance of having sex.  This can lead to negatively affecting his relationship with his 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 be having a negative consequence for women also.

Just like in men, reduced blood flow means less blood flow to the genitals and for women this means 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 very first thing both men and women should do is discuss this matter with their doctor.  Treatment for high blood pressure and satisfaction with sex can go hand in hand if they are open about the problem and work closely with their 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.  Some high blood pressure medications less likely to cause sexual side effects include ACE inhibitors, Calcium channel blockers, and Angiotension II receptor blockers.

Men who are 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 are making healthy lifestyle choices, this can play a significant part of not only lowering blood pressure but also 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 want 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 women, it might be hot flashes, for men, erectile dysfunction.

·      Avoid criticizing.  Focus on the positives such as expressing, “I really love it when you….” or approach a sexual issue as a problem to be solved together rather than an exercise in assigning blame.