Don't Accept ED as a Consequence of Treating Heart Issues
Nearly half of men in the United States have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Untreated hypertension can cause a host of health problems, including poor penile blood flow and erectile dysfunction (ED)—though certain medications used to treat the condition can cause ED, too. But you're in luck: Not all blood pressure medications have the same side effects, so the key is to learn which treatment is right for your heart as well as your sex life.
Medications that may cause ED
Some drugs are more likely than others to contribute to ED, and beta blockers and diuretics are among the culprits. The Mayo Clinic defines beta blockers as drugs that block the effects of hormones such as adrenaline and epinephrine. These drugs restrict blood flow and make the smooth muscles in the penis unable to relax, preventing enough blood from entering the shaft to cause and maintain an erection and leading to deterioration in sexual function. Examples of beta blockers include metoprolol, carvedilol, atenolol and propranolol.
Diuretics, or "water pills," can also make getting an erection difficult by decreasing the intensity of blood flow to the penis and lowering zinc levels, which in turn decreases testosterone production and therefore your sex drive. Not everyone will react negatively to these drugs, however, and a simple dosage adjustment may work for you.
Medications less likely to cause ED
Fewer instances of ED have been reported by men taking alpha blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and ARBs. Alpha blockers are a common treatment for hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors widen blood vessels and increase flow overall and to the penis. Calcium channel blockers are used to lower blood pressure and address conditions such as irregular heartbeat and chest pain. ARBs, or angiotensin II receptor blockers, work by widening both arteries and veins and increasing the volume of blood. Overall, these four groups of medications don't typically cause ED.
You're not alone
ED affects nearly 30 million American men, according to a 2012 review published in Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension. You're not alone in seeking medication that will help normalize blood pressure but won't affect you in the bedroom. However, you should first learn about the relationship between your medications and ED and also ask your doctor about lifestyle and behavior modifications that you can make before considering medication.
What you can do
You can find a solution for your blood pressure problems without sacrificing your sexual health and erectile function. If you're experiencing ED and are on blood pressure medication, don't stop taking the drugs before speaking with your doctor. Discuss your ED concerns openly, because the causes may be more psychological than physical. Some men who experience ED after starting treatment for high blood pressure may simply be experiencing anxiety rather than a side effect of the medication itself. On the other hand, a medical solution may be as simple as adjusting the dosage of your meds or switching to another medication so you can balance your heart health and your sexual function at the same time.