High blood pressure may seem unrelated to sex, but low libido and erectile dysfunction are two ways high blood pressure can affect a male sexually.

The human body’s systems are all interconnected — what affects one often influences another. Like many bodily measurements, blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day. When it is consistently above a certain level, however, it qualifies for a formal diagnosis of high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Almost half of the adults in the United States live with high blood pressure, and it is more common among biological males. Over time, it damages blood vessels throughout the body — including in the reproductive system.

This article looks at how and why high blood pressure can affect a male sexually.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Persistent high blood pressure causes vascular damage.

Overstrained blood vessels can leak or rupture. As their inner linings become weak and tear, fatty deposits known as plaques can form, narrowing the vessels and reducing flexibility. Doctors call this process atherosclerosis.

All of this results in reduced blood flow. When the process damages the vessels of the reproductive system, it can also lead to sexual dysfunction.

Without proper blood flow, libido and sexual ability may decrease.

One way high blood pressure can affect a male sexually is through erectile dysfunction (ED).

ED is an inability to regularly get an erection or maintain an erection long enough to have sex.

Blood flow to the penis is an essential part of sustainable erections. Proper blood flow ensures the penile arteries can relax, allowing perimeter vessels to expand and fill up with blood.

If vascular damage restricts blood flow, the penis may not get enough blood to create an erection — or to sustain one if it occurs.

Males living with hypertension are almost twice as likely to experience ED and impaired blood flow to the penis compared with males without high blood pressure.

The type of hypertension may also matter.

According to a 2019 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, males with higher diastolic blood pressure and lower systolic blood pressure were less likely to experience ED at the same rate as other males with hypertension.

Diastolic vs. systolic

Diastolic blood pressure is the measurement of force inside the arteries between heartbeats. Systolic blood pressure is the measurement of force during a heartbeat, when the organ pumps blood out.

Blood pressure readings consist of both diastolic and systolic measurements. The normal range for an adult is as follows:

  • Systolic: less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)
  • Diastolic: less than 80 mm Hg
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Libido is another term for sexual drive and desire. When libido is low, overall interest in sex declines.

For males, libido closely links with the hormone testosterone. According to a 2021 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, males living with hypertension are more likely to have lower levels of testosterone.

It is unclear if high blood pressure contributes to testosterone decrease or if both conditions co-occur independently of one another.

Hypertension and low testosterone can share risk factors such as increased body weight, poor diet, and lack of physical activity, explaining why they may regularly occur together.

Poor blood flow can, again, be an important underlying factor, though.

Research shows that the vascular system is essential to proper biological tissue function. If hormones such as testosterone are not getting where they need to go due to improper blood flow, their effects may diminish.

Hypertension is a systemic condition, meaning it can affect the entire body. If a person does not get treatment, it can lead to:

Many of these conditions can also contribute to sexual dysfunction.

A 2020 meta-analysis in the International Journal of Impotence Research found 76% of males living with chronic kidney disease experienced ED.

Kidney damage can cause its own challenges with blood flow and may also occur alongside nerve damage, fatigue, and psychological distress.

It is not uncommon for people with any chronic illness to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress.

Many people with ED become self-conscious. The International Society for Sexual Medicine indicates negative feelings can distract from sexual stimuli and prevent complete arousal.

For some people, mental health challenges may also result in premature ejaculation or difficulty reaching orgasm.

Below are some common questions about how high blood pressure affects males sexually.

Can lowering blood pressure improve erectile dysfunction?

Lowering high blood pressure can improve ED but is not a guaranteed fix for sexual dysfunction. ED is more common among males with hypertension, and some medications for high blood pressure may worsen sexual side effects.

Does high blood pressure make you erect?

High blood pressure is not what creates an erection. Increased blood flow to the penis helps create rigidity through a physiological process of sexual arousal.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure in a male?

ED can be an early warning sign of high blood pressure in males. Other symptoms include:

  • nosebleeds
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • vision changes
  • confusion
  • anxiety
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • dizziness

Will having sex make high blood pressure higher?

Like other forms of mild to moderate exertion, sex can increase both heart rate and blood pressure. This effect is temporary, and as long as cardiac health is stable, the risk of adverse reactions is low.

High blood pressure can affect a male sexually in a number of ways. Vascular damage can directly limit blood flow, which can prevent proper erectile function and inhibit libido.

Other chronic health conditions with links to hypertension, such as kidney disease, heart disease, and psychological distress, can also cause sexual side effects.

While treating hypertension may improve sexual dysfunction, some high blood pressure medications can worsen sexual symptoms.