High blood pressure and sex: Overcome the challenges

Treatment for high blood pressure and satisfaction with sex can go hand in hand — if you're open about the problem and work closely with your doctor.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. But the impact on your sex life may be obvious. Although sexual activity is unlikely to pose an immediate threat to your health — such as a heart attack — high blood pressure can affect your overall satisfaction with sex.

A link between high blood pressure and sexual problems is proved in men. For women who have decreased sexual satisfaction, it's not yet proved that high blood pressure is to blame.

Challenges for men

Over time, high blood pressure damages the lining of blood vessels and causes arteries to harden and narrow (atherosclerosis), limiting blood flow. This means less blood is able to flow to the penis.

For some men, the decreased blood flow makes it difficult to achieve and maintain erections — often referred to as erectile dysfunction. The problem is fairly common.

High blood pressure can also interfere with ejaculation and reduce sexual desire. Sometimes the medications used to treat high blood pressure have similar effects.

Even a single episode of erectile dysfunction can cause anxiety. Fears that it will happen again might lead men to avoid sex — and affect the relationship with their sexual partner.

Men should discuss any concerns with their doctor.

Challenges for women

High blood pressure's effect on sexual problems in women isn't well-understood. But it's possible that high blood pressure could affect a woman's sex life.

High blood pressure can reduce blood flow to the vagina. For some women, this leads to a decrease in sexual desire or arousal, vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm. Improving arousal and lubrication can help.

Like men, women can experience anxiety and relationship issues due to sexual dysfunction. Women should talk to their doctor if they experience these difficulties.

High blood pressure medication side effects in men: Sexual problems

High blood pressure medications that can cause sexual dysfunction as a side effect include:

  • Water pills (diuretics). Diuretics can decrease forceful blood flow to the penis, making it difficult to achieve an erection. They can also deplete the body of zinc, which is necessary to make the sex hormone testosterone.
  • Beta blockers. These medications, especially older generation beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL), are commonly associated with sexual dysfunction.

To reduce the risk of side effects from these medications, including sexual problems, take medications exactly as prescribed. If you still have side effects, talk to your doctor about other possible medications that may have fewer side effects.

Medications less likely to cause sexual side effects

If sexual side effects persist, ask your doctor about other medication options. Some high blood pressure medications are less likely to cause sexual side effects, such as:

  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers

To help your doctor select the most appropriate medication for you, tell him or her all the other medications you're taking now — including herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs. Sometimes a particular combination of medications or supplements contributes to sexual problems.

If your doctor says it's OK, you may be able to stop taking blood pressure medications temporarily to see if your sex life improves. To make sure your blood pressure remains within a safe range, you may need frequent blood pressure readings while you're not taking the blood pressure lowering medication that may be causing your sexual difficulties. This can be done with a home blood pressure monitoring device for convenience.

Erectile dysfunction drugs and high blood pressure

Men considering medications for erectile dysfunction should check with their doctor first. It's usually safe to combine the erectile dysfunction drugs sildenafil (Revatio, Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn) and tadalafil (Adcirca, Cialis) with high blood pressure medications.

Taking these drugs with nitrates, taken either regularly for chest pain or in an emergency setting, can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

Be honest with your doctor

If you have high blood pressure, you usually don't have to live with a loss of sexual satisfaction. Start by talking with your doctor. The more your doctor knows about you, the better he or she can treat your high blood pressure — and help you maintain a satisfying sex life. Be prepared to answer questions your doctor may ask, such as:

  • What medications are you taking?
  • Has your relationship with your sexual partner changed recently?
  • Have you been feeling depressed?
  • Are you facing more stress than usual?

Promote overall health

By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can lower your blood pressure and potentially improve your sex life. Healthy lifestyle choices include:

  • Not smoking or using tobacco
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Losing extra pounds
  • Exercising regularly

Of course, a leaner body can boost your confidence and help you feel more attractive, which could also improve your sex life.

Set the stage for satisfying sex

Your sexual response may vary with feelings about your partner and the setting in which sex occurs. To encourage satisfying sex, initiate sex when you and your partner are feeling relaxed. Explore various ways to be physically intimate, such as massage or warm soaks in the tub.

Share with each other the types of sexual activity you enjoy most. You may find that open communication is the best way to achieve sexual satisfaction.

Jan. 09, 2019 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Medication-free hypertension control
  2. Adrenal Nodule Create Health Risks
  3. After a flood, are food and medicines safe to use?
  4. Alcohol: Does it affect blood pressure?
  5. Alpha blockers
  6. Amputation and diabetes
  7. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  8. Angiotensin II receptor blockers
  9. Antiphospholipid syndrome
  10. Anxiety: A cause of high blood pressure?
  11. Arteriosclerosis / atherosclerosis
  12. Artificial sweeteners: Any effect on blood sugar?
  13. AskMayoMom Pediatric Urology
  14. Beta blockers
  15. Beta blockers: Do they cause weight gain?
  16. Beta blockers: How do they affect exercise?
  17. Birth control pill FAQ
  18. Blood glucose meters
  19. Blood glucose monitors
  20. Blood pressure: Can it be higher in one arm?
  21. Blood pressure chart
  22. Blood pressure cuff: Does size matter?
  23. Blood pressure: Does it have a daily pattern?
  24. Blood pressure: Is it affected by cold weather?
  25. Blood pressure medication: Still necessary if I lose weight?
  26. Blood pressure medications: Can they raise my triglycerides?
  27. Blood pressure readings: Why higher at home?
  28. Blood pressure test
  29. Blood pressure tip: Get more potassium
  30. Blood pressure tip: Get off the couch
  31. Blood pressure tip: Know alcohol limits
  32. Blood pressure tip: Stress out no more
  33. Blood pressure tip: Watch the caffeine
  34. Blood pressure tip: Watch your weight
  35. Blood sugar levels can fluctuate for many reasons
  36. Blood sugar testing: Why, when and how
  37. Bone and joint problems associated with diabetes
  38. Fibromuscular Dysplasia- Patient Experience, Struggles and Living with FMD
  39. Fibromuscular Dysplasia- Explanation, Treatments and Resources
  40. How kidneys work
  41. Build resilience to better handle diabetes
  42. Bump on the head: When is it a serious head injury?
  43. Caffeine and hypertension
  44. Calcium channel blockers
  45. Calcium supplements: Do they interfere with blood pressure drugs?
  46. Can whole-grain foods lower blood pressure?
  47. Caring for a loved one with diabetes
  48. Central-acting agents
  49. Choosing blood pressure medications
  50. Chronic daily headaches
  51. Chronic kidney disease
  52. Coarctation of the aorta
  53. Cushing syndrome
  54. DASH diet
  55. DASH diet
  56. DASH recommended servings
  57. DASH diet tips
  58. Diabetes
  59. Diabetes and dental care
  60. Diabetes and depression: Coping with the two conditions
  61. Diabetes and exercise: When to monitor your blood sugar
  62. Diabetes and fasting: Can I fast during Ramadan?
  63. Diabetes and foot care
  64. Diabetes and Heat
  65. Diabetes and menopause
  66. Diabetes and summer: How to beat the heat
  67. Diabetes and travel: Planning is key
  68. Diabetes and electric blankets
  69. 10 ways to avoid diabetes complications
  70. Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan
  71. Diabetes diet: Should I avoid sweet fruits?
  72. Diabetes foods: Is honey a good substitute for sugar?
  73. Diabetes and liver
  74. Diabetes management: Does aspirin therapy prevent heart problems?
  75. Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar
  76. Diabetes: Eating out
  77. Diabetes nutrition: Sweets
  78. Diabetes symptoms
  79. Diabetes treatment: Can cinnamon lower blood sugar?
  80. Using insulin
  81. Diuretics
  82. Diuretics: A cause of low potassium?
  83. Diuretics: Cause of gout?
  84. Dizziness
  85. Do infrared saunas have any health benefits?
  86. Do you know your blood pressure?
  87. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  88. High blood pressure and exercise
  89. Fibromuscular dysplasia
  90. Free blood pressure machines: Are they accurate?
  91. Home blood pressure monitoring
  92. Glomerulonephritis
  93. Glycemic index: A helpful tool for diabetes?
  94. Guillain-Barré syndrome
  95. Headaches 101: Know your type
  96. Headaches and hormones
  97. Headaches: Treatment depends on your diagnosis and symptoms
  98. Is chocolate healthy?
  99. Supplements and heart drugs
  100. High blood pressure (hypertension)
  101. High blood pressure and cold remedies: Which are safe?
  102. High blood pressure: Can you prevent it?
  103. High blood pressure dangers
  104. How opioid addiction occurs
  105. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  106. How to use opioids safely
  107. Hunter syndrome
  108. Hypertensive crisis: What are the symptoms?
  109. Hypothermia
  110. IgA nephropathy (Berger's disease)
  111. Insulin and weight gain
  112. Insulin therapy options
  113. Intensive insulin therapy
  114. Intracranial hematoma
  115. Isolated systolic hypertension: A health concern?
  116. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  117. L-arginine: Does it lower blood pressure?
  118. Late-night eating: OK if you have diabetes?
  119. Preventing lead exposure
  120. Lead poisoning
  121. Low-phosphorus diet: Helpful for kidney disease?
  122. Diabetes and carbs
  123. Medications and supplements that can raise your blood pressure
  124. Menopause and high blood pressure: What's the connection?
  125. Molar pregnancy
  126. MRI: Is gadolinium safe for people with kidney problems?
  127. New Test for Preeclampsia
  128. Nighttime headaches: Relief
  129. Nosebleeds
  130. Sleep apnea, obstructive
  131. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  132. Opioids and other drugs: What to watch for
  133. Pain Management
  134. Pheochromocytoma
  135. Picnic Problems: High Sodium
  136. Pituitary tumors
  137. Polycystic kidney disease
  138. Polypill: Does it treat heart disease?
  139. Porphyria
  140. Postpartum preeclampsia
  141. Preeclampsia
  142. Prescription drug abuse
  143. Primary aldosteronism
  144. Pulse pressure: An indicator of heart health?
  145. Mayo Clinic Minute: Rattlesnakes, scorpions and other desert dangers
  146. Reactive hypoglycemia: What can I do?
  147. Reading food labels
  148. Renal diet for vegetarians
  149. Resperate: Can it help reduce blood pressure?
  150. Sample DASH menus
  151. Scorpion sting
  152. Secondary hypertension
  153. Serotonin syndrome
  154. Service dogs assist with diabetes care
  155. Service dogs: Should I get one if I have diabetes?
  156. Sleep deprivation: A cause of high blood pressure?
  157. Sleep tips
  158. Vegetable recipes
  159. Blood sugar testing
  160. Snoring
  161. Snoring solution: Sleep on your side
  162. Sodium: Smarten up
  163. Spider bites
  164. Stress and headaches: Stop the cycle
  165. Stress and high blood pressure
  166. Symptom Checker
  167. Takayasu's arteritis
  168. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  169. Tetanus
  170. Tetanus shots: Is it risky to receive 'extra' boosters?
  171. The dawn phenomenon: What can you do?
  172. Tips for cutting costs of blood glucose test strips
  173. Infographic: Transplant for Polycystic Kidney Disease
  174. Treating pain: When is an opioid the right choice?
  175. Vasodilators
  176. Vegetarian diet: Can it help me control my diabetes?
  177. Vesicoureteral reflux
  178. Video: Heart and circulatory system
  179. How diabetes affects your blood sugar
  180. How to measure blood pressure using a manual monitor
  181. How to measure blood pressure using an automatic monitor
  182. Obstructive sleep apnea: What happens?
  183. What is blood pressure?
  184. Weightlifting: Bad for your blood pressure?
  185. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  186. What's your high blood pressure risk?
  187. White coat hypertension
  188. Wrist blood pressure monitors: Are they accurate?
  189. Effectively managing chronic kidney disease