How High Blood Pressure Affects Your Libido

Blood pressure is the force exerted against your artery walls as your heart pumps blood through your body, explains Family Doctor. When you have high blood pressure, also known as "hypertension," the blood moves through your body at a higher-than-normal pressure. 

High blood pressure is often called the "silent killer," because it shows no outward symptoms, but can put you at risk for a wide range of serious conditions, including heart disease, heart failure, and stroke, says the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. In addition to these ailments, high blood pressure can impact your day-to-day life as well. If you suffer from hypertension, you can experience chest pains, known as angina, when exerting yourself. It can also lead to vision problems, as the blood vessels in your eyes can be damaged by high blood pressure (via the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center).

On top of these dangerous, and potentially deadly, side effects, hypertension can also negatively impact your sex life. This doesn't necessarily mean that, if you have hypertension, you are going to suffer a heart attack during sex. A 2011 study published in the Lancet showed that sexual activity is a trigger in only 2.2% of heart attacks. However, having hypertension could have an impact on your sex life to the point that you might not even be able to have sex at all.

How high blood pressure affects your sexual function

Over time, high blood pressure can lead to health problems, including a decreased libido (via Family Doctor). It can reduce the flow of blood throughout the body, including to the pelvis. When this happens, it can lead to sexual dysfunction in both men and women, explains the American Heart Association

For men, the restriction of blood flow through the body can mean that less blood flows to the penis, resulting in erectile dysfunction. The inability to have or maintain an erection can also produce anxiety in men, which can lead to a decreased interest in sex. In addition, high blood pressure can also interfere with a man's ability to ejaculate, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Mayo Clinic also notes that the impact of high blood pressure on women's sex drive is not as readily apparent. However, high blood pressure can affect the flow of blood to the vagina, reducing the body's levels of nitric oxide, a chemical produced by the body that contributes to smooth muscle relaxation. In some cases, this can lead to sexual symptoms, including lowered sex drive, vaginal dryness, and difficulty achieving orgasm.

Why medications can play a role too

While being hypertensive can impact your libido, there is also a chance that the medications your doctor prescribes could have an effect on your sex life. Diuretics such as hydrochlorothiazide and beta blockers like atenolol could be the first medications your doctor will prescribe if you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, and both have been known to cause erectile issues, says WebMD.

On the other hand, there are medications, including angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors such as enalapril and ramipril, as well as angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) like losartan and valsartan, that have had no evidence of erectile dysfunction, according to Paramount Men's Medical Center. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure and are worried about suffering from erectile dysfunction from the medication, talk with your doctor about the best course of treatment.

The best way to ensure that high blood pressure does not affect your sex is to take the necessary steps to keep it low. These include not using tobacco products, eating a healthy diet, limiting your intake of salt and alcohol, and getting regular exercise. Not only will these things help you to manage your blood pressure, but they will also make you slimmer and more fit and give you the stamina you need to enjoy healthy and satisfying sex with your partner (via WebMD).