Erectile Dysfunction Could Be the Nudge You Need to Get Your Blood Pressure Checked—Here's Why
These two common medical conditions have a surprising link.
When an awkward situation occurs in your sex life, it can be embarrassing to talk about (especially if it's with a new partner). Erectile dysfunction is a common one, and can stem from several different health issues, including mental health concerns like anxiety, depression, and stress; health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol; and lifestyle factors like smoking, drinking alcohol, and lack of exercise.
While the causes of erectile dysfunction are numerous, high blood pressure is one of the most common culprits. Read on to find out why you need to get yours checked if you're experiencing this issue in the bedroom.
Several factors can lead to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is one of America's most prevalent health conditions, affecting nearly half of U.S. adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure is defined as having systolic blood pressure (the force exerted on arterial walls at each heartbeat) higher than 130 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (force exerted on arterial walls between heartbeats) greater than 80 mmHg.
While anyone can develop high blood pressure from various causes (obesity, genetics, sedentary lifestyle, high sodium intake, smoking, alcohol), a higher percentage of men in the U.S. (50 percent) have hypertension compared to women (44 percent). Over time, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and cause arteries to harden and narrow, restricting blood flow and potentially impairing sexual function.
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This common problem can signal high blood pressure.
If you struggle to achieve and maintain an erection, you may be among the 30 million American men who have erectile dysfunction (ED). That number may seem high until you realize that ED is the most commonly reported sexual problem among men worldwide. While the inability to perform in the bedroom can be frustrating and embarrassing, it could be a red flag of a more serious health issue—namely, high blood pressure.
Men with ED are approximately 38 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than men without ED, according to a study that analyzed the medical records of over 1.9 million men. So even if you haven't been diagnosed with hypertension and aren't on medication, you should see your doctor to check your blood pressure, as ED can be a symptom of hypertension or other heart-related issues.
Laura Purdy, MD, MBA, a board-certified family physician in Fort Benning, Georgia, tells Best Life, "Over time, if blood pressure and other medical problems result in hardening of the arteries, we can see ED developing in people."
Regular exercise can improve sexual function.
Regular exercise can significantly improve cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and helping you maintain a healthy weight. In a 2018 study published in Sexual Medicine, researchers examined the effects of regular exercise on ED related to high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, and heart disease. They found that doing 160 minutes of aerobic exercise (such as running, brisk walking, or cycling) for six months significantly improved ED.
While physical activity is vital for improving cardiovascular health, exercise alone isn't a panacea for ED and heart-related problems. Lowering your blood pressure also requires reducing common risk factors for the condition. Purdy says, "Risk factors for ED include smoking cigarettes, peripheral artery disease, chronic kidney disease, obesity, history of prostate cancer, medications, low testosterone, and depression."
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Adopt healthy lifestyle habits to lower blood pressure and address your ED.
When it comes to cardiovascular health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Implementing healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine can result in healthier blood pressure and a better sex life. Most risk factors for hypertension are modifiable, meaning you can address them using natural methods.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most common risk factors for high blood pressure include obesity, excessive sodium intake, a diet high in saturated fats and low in fruits and veggies, lack of physical activity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. Reducing these risk factors, along with eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, will help keep your blood pressure in check and your blood pumping, so you can perform like your old self in the bedroom again.