Despite its seeming invisibility, high blood pressure is dangerous, even deadly. Its effects can linger throughout many life activities, including sex.
The October issue of the Harvard Heart Letter examines the overlooked connection between high blood pressure and a healthy sex life.
One of the biggest problems with high blood pressure is that many people who have it don’t feel it. The absence of immediate symptoms makes it easy to ignore, or stop drug treatment when side effects appear. One group of these side effects—sexual problems—are a main reason people stop taking drugs that lower blood pressure. Sex-related side effects have been ascribed to virtually all classes of drugs used to control blood pressure. The October issue investigates the different types of drugs—diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, angiotensin-receptor blockers, and calcium-channel blockers—and their effects on sexual function.
However, sexual problems aren't always the drugs’ fault. High blood pressure itself can interfere with a satisfying sex life because it can change circulatory patterns in the body and damage the inner lining of arteries, both of which may decrease blood flow to the penis and vagina.
Other problems attributed to high blood pressure or drug therapy for it include: impotence and ejaculation problems in men, painful or uncomfortable intercourse, difficulty having an orgasm in women, and lack of desire in both sexes.
The October issue notes that if patients think a blood pressure drug is affecting their sex life, they should notify their doctor. Another helpful step is to make a list of all the medications a patient is taking, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs, and ask a pharmacist to review it. A good pharmacist can identify drugs or drug combinations that might be contributing to sexual problems.
The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of the Harvard Medical School. You can subscribe to Harvard Heart Letter for $28 per year at http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling 1-877-649-9457 toll-free.