Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

High Blood Pressure and Sexuality

By Michael Bates, M.D.

High blood pressure (HBP), also called hypertension, is a common chronic medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is elevated. Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries.

Your arteries start out smooth and elastic. Over the years they become more rigid and narrow because of cholesterol plaque formation. Plaque formation is accelerated by illnesses such as diabetes as well as lifestyle choices, such as overeating, smoking, and lack of exercise. You may have HBP for years without any symptoms.

HBP affects almost one-third of the U.S. adult population. The prevalence is similar for men and women. It affects nearly everyone eventually. HBP results in increased risk of stroke, heart attack and sexual dysfunction.

How might high blood pressure affect sexual function?

In men, the effects of HBP on sexual function are more physically apparent because the most common result is erectile dysfunction (ED). Men can have other effects as well, including reduced sexual desire (libido) and fear of performance after a few episodes of ED. This might lead to sexual avoidance.

In women, HBP can reduce the flow of blood to the pelvis, which can lead to vaginal dryness and difficulty achieving orgasm. Like men, this can cause reduced sexual desire, which can lead to sexual avoidance and relationship issues.

Can blood pressure medication cause sexual side effects?

Not only can the chronic illness of HBP cause sexual problems, but also the medications used to treat HBP. Therefore, it is not simply a matter of taking the right drug to treat HBP. It is also important to report sexual dysfunction side effects to your doctor. Doses and medications can be adjusted. The most common offenders are diuretics (water pills) and beta blockers.

What about the safety of having sex if one has HBP? Can it cause a heart attack?

Heart attacks occur anytime, anywhere, at work or play, while resting, or while in motion. Sex does raise your blood pressure, particularly during the 10-15 seconds of orgasm, but only mildly.

According to the American Journal of Cardiology, the exertion of sexual activity causes less than 1% of all heart attacks. Even those with known heart disease only have odds of suffering a heart attack within two hours of sex of 1/50,000. So don’t let high blood pressure and fears of a heart attack shut down your sex life. The health benefits of sex are numerous. Specifically, sex and sensual activities can actually help reduce blood pressure and benefit your heart.

Can sexual aids (sex toys) be used to treat the sexual dysfunction of HBP?

YES.

Ladies first. The problem of vaginal dryness can be treated with weekly topical application of vaginal estrogen cream. This requires a prescription from your doctor.

If that doesn’t provide sufficient relief, add a vaginal lubricant with sex, and don’t be afraid to use it generously.

  • As reported in our article What Kind of Sexual Lubricant is Best?, water-based lubricants are easy to use and feel natural, though they may dry quickly. This is the type of lubricant usually recommended for use with a sexual aid like a vibrator.
  • Silicone-based lubricants feel natural and are longer lasting, however, they not recommended if you are using a sex toy.

About those toys, any toy that increases blood flow to the pelvis and vagina is a plus.

  • The regular use of dildos has proven beneficial for gyn cancer patients who have decreased pelvic/vaginal blood flow secondary to surgery or radiation. The same benefits occur in hypertensive patients.
  • Clitoral vibrators also increase blood flow to the clitoris and make it easier to reach orgasm.

Men with HBT generally can use the common ED medications like Viagra. These don’t always work or there may be health contraindications to their use. In that case, sex toys can be very helpful.

  • Penis rings are useful if the man can get an erection but he cannot maintain it for penetration. The ring prevents the escape of blood from the penis, which is the problem with maintaining an erection. Vibrating rings are also available which can be pleasurable for your partner, too. In those who cannot get an erection penis pumps combined with rings work well. Using a pump requires some planning and practice, but the result is satisfactory for penetration.<
  • Masturbation sleeves help achieve an erection and can be useful for partnered manual stimulation. In fact, most of the toys for men and women can be used not only for partnered sex but also for masturbation.

What is the take home message?

  • Blood vessel damage from high blood pressure reduces blood flow throughout your body.
  • Lower blood flow to the pelvis can affect the sex lives of both men and women.
  • Don’t let HBP hurt your sex life. Talk with your doctor.
  • If the medical fixes are not for you or if they are not helpful enough, sex toys can help bring sexual pleasure back into your life.

As per our Terms of Use, this article is for general educational and informational purposes only and is not meant to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult with your own physician or health care practitioner regarding the use of any information received here before using or relying on it. Your physician or health care practitioner should address any and all medical questions, concerns and decisions regarding the possible treatment of any medical condition.

References

  • Erectile dysfunction drugs and high blood pressure, www.mayoclinic.org
  • High blood pressure (hypertension), www.mayoclinic.org
  • High blood pressure and sex: overcome the challenges, www.mayoclinic.org
  • How high blood pressure can affect your sex life, www.heart.org
  • Hypertension among adults in the United States: national health and nutrition examination survey, 2011-2012, www.cdc.gov
  • Is it dangerous to have sex if I have high blood pressure?, https://helloheart.com

About the Author

Michael Bates, M.D.

Dr Bates practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 34 years in Wichita, Kansas, until his retirement in 2011.

You might also enjoy...