Here’s the hard truth. If you have ED you may also have other health issues, including high blood pressure, that put you at risk for a lot more than an unsatisfying sex life. Because ED is caused by reduced blood flow to the penis, ED can be a sign of the following heart and circulation related conditions:
- Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
You should be especially aware of high blood pressure because it can put you at risk for serious and life-threatening problems including (1):
- Heart disease
- Heart attacks & strokes
- Chest pain
- Kidney failure
- Vision problems
If you have symptoms of ED you should make sure you are screened for any underlying problems. The Mayo Clinic notes that ED can be a warning sign to help catch heart issues before they become worse. (2)
What should you expect when getting screened for heart health? The American Heart Association recommends the following screenings (3):
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol test
- Body weight
- Blood glucose test
- Discussions of smoking, diet, and other lifestyle factors
What if you have high blood pressure?
If you discover you have high blood pressure (HBP), your doctor may prescribe medication or suggest lifestyle changes. These changes may include:
- Eating a well-balanced, low-salt diet
- Getting regular physical activity
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Managing stress
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
Not only are these changes helpful for HBP, many of the same things are also recommended if you have ED.
ED and blood pressure medication: possible links
What if you are taking medication to treat HBP? Did you know that some medications can make your ED worse at the same time they’re helping your blood pressure?
Certain types of HBP drugs like diuretics (water pills) and beta-blockers can decrease blood flow to the penis, making it more difficult to get an erection. In comparison, other classes of HBP drugs like alpha-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and angioten-sin-receptor blockers rarely cause or worsen ED. (4)
If you’re concerned that other medications are contributing to ED, talk to your doctor about trying a different drug that doesn’t have ED as a side effect. Of course, never stop taking a medication on your own without consulting your doctor first. Also, when discussing taking any drug with your doctor, make sure you discuss all medications (including ED meds) that you’re already taking, as certain blood pressure drugs can have dangerous interactions with ED medications.(2) Your doctor is always your single best resource for understanding what drugs are safe to take at the same time. Ask him or her to work with you to create a plan to treat your ED and other conditions safely.
High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because there are few symptoms to warn you that you have it.(5) HBP cannot be cured, only managed with lifestyle changes and medication (if medically recommended). Because ED is frequently linked with HBP, you should make sure to get a screening for HBP if you’re experiencing ED.