When You Stop Having Sex, This Is What Happens To Your Blood Pressure

Gone are the days when we thought sex was meant just for procreation. The intimacy you share with your partner has now evolved from being a physically and mentally pleasurable activity to having a significant impact on your overall health, thanks to science and all that it keeps uncovering about the surprising ways your sex life can impact your health.

Did you know that sex could influence your blood pressure levels too? According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior that looked at partnered sexuality in older adults, sex of good quality can reduce the risk of high blood pressure in women. The same effect, however, was not observed in the male subjects. 

A different study by Georgia University researchers published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and Research found that sex was as effective as a water pill diuretic (pills used to reduce blood pressure by removing extra fluid from your system) in reducing blood pressure (BP) when readings of BP were recorded after an orgasm. What about self-pleasure in the absence of a partner? Masturbation and resulting orgasm have been linked with lowering your blood pressure too. All the more reason not to stop having sex (or masturbate), apparently. How exactly does sex influence your blood pressure levels?  

Sex and blood pressure: The connection

According to the researchers, sex's blood pressure-lowering effect has to do with the concoction of feel-good hormones that get released during sexual activity and orgasm, namely, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, all of which can influence how relaxed, happy, and stress-free you feel, leading to the lower blood pressure readings. 

Oxytocin, also referred to as the "love hormone" or "cuddle hormone," enhances pleasure and contributes toward feeling relaxed, connected, and stress-free with your partner. Oxytocin levels rise in your body when you're hugging someone you love or during an orgasm. Dopamine is the hormone that gives you a sense of pleasure, while serotonin is associated with things like sexual desire, mood, and sleep. Sex therapist Marty Klein told AARP that regular and loving sex is similar to a full-body massage that offers deep relaxation and is used to treat conditions like pain, asthma, arthritis, and high blood pressure. 

How you feel mentally has an effect on your blood pressure, according to a 2022 study published in Biomedical Engineering Online. "We reviewed 12 studies on people with anxiety, depression and panic disorders and found that, regardless of age, mental illness is significantly associated with greater blood pressure variations during the day," explained one of the researchers, Renly Lim (via the University of South Australia). In addition to the mental health and blood pressure connection, some think that the physical activity that comes with sex could lead to better blood pressure readings too. 

High blood pressure and sex: Things to think about

Just because sexual activity has been thought to be beneficial for your blood pressure levels, it does not mean that high blood pressure can be managed by sex alone. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious condition. It is important for you to know what happens if high blood pressure goes untreated – we're talking heart disease risk, stroke, and angina. Sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction in men and problems with arousal, orgasms, and lubrication in women) could also be a side effect of having high blood pressure. Hypertension medications could lead to sexual dysfunction too. 

Treating high blood pressure involves a holistic approach that often includes maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a diet of whole grains, plenty of vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and sufficient protein, reducing your intake of salt, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, prioritizing quality sleep, reducing stress, and sometimes, medication. Sex can be helpful in the areas of giving you some (but not enough) physical exercise and reducing your stress levels. It might even help with the sleep aspect by releasing the sleep-friendly hormones oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin. Even so, it is important that you work with your doctor on a proper treatment plan. 

And yes, you can enjoy sex even with high blood pressure. If ED, vaginal dryness, and side effects from medications are concerns, discuss them with your doctor. There are steps you can follow and different drugs you can take instead.