High blood pressure, also called hypertension or “HBP,” is one of the most closely linked conditions to erectile dysfunction (ED). Not only can high blood pressure lead to ED, but medication for HBP may cause ED, as well as other sexual side effects.
How does high blood pressure cause ED?
For men with high blood pressure, the blood tubes (or “vessels”) that carry blood throughout the body can become damaged.
This damage may include the vessels that carry blood to and from the penis and, as a result, the penis does not get enough blood to achieve and/or maintain an erection. Studies suggest that as many as half of all ED cases result from blood vessel diseases.
How is ED diagnosed?
A physical exam may be part of your visit. Your doctor will ask you questions about both your physical and mental health, in order to help pinpoint the cause of your ED. He or she may feel that your ED is related to your high blood pressure, or another condition. Besides HBP, other heart and blood supply (or “circulatory”) conditions can lead to ED, such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and vascular disease. In addition, your doctor may determine that your high blood pressure medication is causing ED as a side effect.
Other causes of ED include nerve damage, kidney disease, diabetes, alcoholism and multiple sclerosis (MS).
How is high blood pressure-related ED treated?
Once ED has been diagnosed and your doctor determines the cause is HBP, treatment can begin. In recent years, new prescription medicines have helped millions of men with ED improve erections. These medicines have been proven safe and effective for men with ED and high blood pressure.
These prescription pills work by increasing the effects of nitric oxide already present in the body. Nitric oxide relaxes smooth muscles in the penis during sexual stimulation and allows the increased blood flow that causes erections.
If you’re experiencing ED as a side effect of your high blood pressure medication, or another sexual side effect such as loss of desire or problems ejaculating, your doctor may switch you to another HBP drug.
Finally, if you’re seeing more than one doctor or healthcare professional, make sure to keep them all informed about your medication and treatment.
What else can I do?
Your doctor may make certain lifestyle suggestions that help treat your high blood pressure and decrease your risk of ED. Suggestions may include:
Eating a healthy diet
For reducing blood pressure, the American Heart Association recommends eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as low-fat and fat-free dairy products. Important nutrients include potassium, calcium, protein and magnesium. You should also eat a diet low in cholesterol, fat, saturated fat and, in some cases, salt.
Drinking alcohol in moderation
Keeping your intake to two drinks or less per day may help lower blood pressure, as well as help you lose weight if you need to.
Although smoking isn’t directly linked to high blood pressure, quitting can increase blood flow, thus helping avoid ED. Your doctor can recommend ways to help you quit.
Daily exercise is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure and control weight. Remember to speak with your doctor before changing your diet or starting an exercise program.
The information contained here is provided from a third-party publication as a courtesy to our visitors. It is not to be considered an endorsement by Lilly ICOS LLC. Remember, only your doctor or other healthcare professional can determine if you have erectile dysfunction and if treatment is right for you.
SOURCE: The Journal of Urology
Revision date: June 22, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD