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The Facts About Hypertension

Find out how hypertension affects your sexual health.

A female doctor checks a man for high blood pressure.

Blood is transported from the heart to different areas of the body through arteries. Your blood pressure changes throughout the day between acceptable highs and lows.

Hypertension—the medical name for high blood pressure—is a condition where the pressure of blood, or the force of blood against the walls of the arteries, is elevated beyond normal levels.

The risk of developing additional health issues, such as heart disease and stroke, increases as blood pressure levels rise. Examining systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings allow physicians to identify high blood pressure and prescribe treatment.


Typically, high blood pressure develops gradually. Poor dietary habits and a lack of regular exercise are examples of poor lifestyle choices that might lead to hypertension.

Hypertension can be a risk factor for some medical disorders such as diabetes and obesity. Pregnancy can also trigger high blood pressure levels due to physiologic changes from higher blood volume during pregnancy.


You might not even be aware that you have hypertension, and that is one of the most dangerous aspects of the condition. Estimates say only about one-third of people with high blood pressure are aware of it because it rarely causes identifiable symptoms unless the condition is severe.

Look out for these signs that may indicate your blood pressure is excessively high:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nosebleeds
  • Pounding in the chest, neck or ears
  • Severe headaches
  • Vision problems


Risk factors for hypertension include the following:

  • Obesity and being overweight
  • Certain chronic conditions
  • Cough and cold medications
  • Living with stress
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Not being physically active
  • Too little potassium in your diet
  • Too much salt in your diet


You can help prevent high blood pressure by transitioning to a more healthy lifestyle. Taking the following actions can help:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet 
  • Get regular vigorous exercise
  • Limit alcohol
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid smoking


Measuring blood pressure with a pressure cuff is the most accurate technique to identify high blood pressure. The cuff is wrapped around the upper arm before it is manually or electronically inflated.

There is some debate as to what constitutes high blood pressure, so you should discuss this with a doctor based on your individual health history, age and demographic. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and consists of an upper number—systolic—over a lower number—diastolic. Some medical experts diagnose high blood pressure when it is continuously over 130/80 mmHg, while others set the limit higher at 140/90 mmHg. These thresholds can vary by age, medical history, etc.


Four classes of medications are among the first-line treatments for hypertension:

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

Living with hypertension

Hypertension has no cure. You can improve your quality of life and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by taking prescription drugs and changing your lifestyle to reduce your blood pressure level.

It's crucial to periodically check your blood pressure if you have been diagnosed with hypertension. Routine visits with your primary healthcare provider are important, too. Keeping track of your numbers will help you and your doctor spot patterns and notice any changes. Monitoring your progress over time will also show whether the lifestyle improvements you've made are proving effective.

The following lifestyle modifications can help:

  • Eat a healthy diet low in salt
  • Get regular exercise
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Manage stress levels
  • Quit smoking
  • See a doctor on a regular basis for a checkup

Dating with hypertension

Being in an unhealthy relationship or even having negative dating experiences can take an emotional and physical toll. According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, older adults and women are more likely to develop hypertension during a difficult or dissolving relationship. Couples in negative relationships are 40 percent more likely to develop hypertension within four years.

Researchers have found that women experience more vulnerability to stress than men when relationships fail. While everybody experiences stress in different ways, some relationship situations are more likely to lead to chronic stress. Having a stressful or difficult time with dating can also be a major stressor for high blood pressure.

Sexual health and hypertension

Over time, hypertension damages the lining of the blood vessels and causes arteries to narrow, which slows blood flow. For men, that can lead to limited blood flow to the penis and potentially contribute to erectile dysfunction (ED), the ability to achieve and maintain an erection satisfactory for intercourse. Hypertension may interfere with ejaculation and can lower libido.

Less is known about how hypertension affects females sexually. It is accepted that high blood pressure can decrease nitric oxide levels that aid in the relaxation of the smooth muscles and blood flow to the sexual organs. This could result in decreased arousal or sex drive. Some women with hypertension can experience dry genitalia and have trouble reaching an orgasm.

In both men and women, sexual dysfunction can result in anxiety, sadness and relationship issues.

Hypertension and ED

Erection issues are frequently brought on by hypertension. A widely cited study from the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that erectile dysfunction affected almost 49 percent of males between the ages of 40 and 79 who had high blood pressure. Another small study of males with high blood pressure published in the Journal of Urology found that 68 percent of them had some degree of ED.

The arteries that provide blood to the penis are prevented from dilating by high blood pressure. Additionally, it impairs the ability of the smooth muscles in the penis to relax. As a result, the penis is unable to become erect due to a lack of blood flow. Men with hypertension may also have low testosterone (low-T). Testosterone is the sex hormone that plays a major role in sexual arousal.

Some medications used to treat high blood pressure can be the cause of ED, as well. Diuretics and beta blockers are some drugs you might take to lower high blood pressure that are most commonly linked to erectile dysfunction.

Hypertension during pregnancy

Severe hypertension during pregnancy can have negative effects on both the mother and the unborn child. Some pregnant women already have hypertension, but others experience it for the first time during pregnancy. Preeclampsia, a condition marked by elevated blood pressure, can also manifest during pregnancy or soon after delivery.

Pregnant women with hypertension are more prone to experience problems before, during and after delivery. Pregnancy-related high blood pressure can also have detrimental effects on both the mother and the unborn child, endangering both of their lives.

The baby's access to nutrients and oxygen may be limited because the placenta's development can be impeded by hypertension during pregnancy. The infant could experience an early delivery, low birth weight and other issues.

Talking to your partner

If your partner has hypertension, find out what they are already doing to control their condition and what you can do to support them. This could include going with them to healthcare visits, helping them monitor their blood pressure and guiding them toward low-salt diets.

Providing emotional support and staying positive is important, especially reminding your loved one that control is possible.

Help your partner make healthy lifestyle changes for better blood pressure control. One way is through exercise, which can help lower blood pressure. Try to be more active together and schedule exercises, such as going for a walk or a bike ride. Take an interest in their successes while they lower their blood pressure.

Schedule a telehealth call

Controlling hypertension via telehealth—that is, health-related services accessed via your computer or phone—is convenient for a busy lifestyle and especially because symptoms may be absent and easy to neglect. Telemedicine fosters long-term relationships between patients and doctors to encourage greater supervision of hypertension. It also increases your ability to regularly manage your high blood pressure and report your progress to your healthcare provider for instant feedback.


What are the main symptoms of hypertension?

Part of the concern with hypertension is that there are no primary symptoms to look for. Unless your blood pressure is extremely high, it is unlikely you'll experience any warning signs or symptoms. Hypertension is called a "silent killer" because people with it are unaware of the problem until something catastrophic happens.

However, if symptoms do occur as a result of severe hypertension, they should not be ignored. These symptoms may include nosebleeds, headaches, irregular heartbeat, muscle tremors, vision changes, vomiting, confusion, fatigue, anxiety and chest pain.

How quickly can you lower blood pressure?

How long it takes to lower blood pressure depends on a variety of factors, such as how high your blood pressure is to start with, what methods you use to lower it and other preexisting health conditions.

The effects of blood pressure medication are fast, usually lowering levels within a few days. This is dependent on the route of administration; for example, emergency department/ICU patients are sometimes given IV meds, which can be rapid. They will likely be kept at a healthy level by daily medication, usually in pill form. To keep blood pressure under control long term, people frequently need to make modifications to their diet and lifestyle. In many circumstances, dietary adjustments can also quickly help lower blood pressure.

Can hypertension be cured?

High blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Once you are diagnosed with hypertension, you will need to take steps to manage your blood pressure for the rest of your life.