Illustration of red blood cells to represent high blood pressure

Can High Blood Pressure Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

Medically reviewed on December 19, 2023 by Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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The ability of a man or a person assigned male at birth (AMAB) to have and maintain an erection is a complicated process. It requires several systems of the body to work in concert, from the nervous system to the thyroid gland. To that end, some health issues can impact this process.

If you have high blood pressure or are experiencing erectile dysfunction, you may be wondering, can high blood pressure cause erectile dysfunction?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a cardiovascular condition that can override a person’s ability to hold an erection—a major symptom of erectile dysfunction (ED).[1] Healthcare providers refer to this kind of ED as vascular erectile dysfunction since it’s rooted in impaired blood vessel function (rather than neurological, hormonal, or psychological issues).[1]

Fortunately, learning more and working with your healthcare provider can help you make proactive choices and find the right antihypertensive medication to improve both your cardiovascular and sexual health.

Erectile Dysfunction And High Blood Pressure: What’s The Connection?

To understand how hypertension can result in ED, it’s important to understand how the condition impacts the vascular system.

The interiors of blood vessels are sheathed with cells, which together are known as the endothelium.[2] The endothelium is responsible for controlling blood flow by alternately dilating and constricting.[2] Having high blood pressure can ultimately degrade the endothelium’s ability to work properly (also known as endothelial dysfunction).[2]

Importantly, healthcare providers often consider ED to be one of the earliest signs of hypertension.[2] This is because the vascular structure that fuels an erection—the penile artery—is quite delicate and small, and thus more vulnerable to early damage by high blood pressure.[2]

Other Erectile Dysfunction Causes

Though cardiovascular ill-health is one of the leading causes of ED, experiencing sexual dysfunction isn’t necessarily a sign that you have high blood pressure.[3]

Several other factors can result in ED, including [4]:

  • Mental health – From struggling with male libido to experiencing relationship challenges, male sexual function is heavily influenced by psychology. [4] Taking antidepressants or other psychoactive medications may also impact your ability to hold an erection.
  • Hormonal health – The endocrine system is majorly involved in male sexual function. Hormonal imbalances, such as low testosterone, may create conditions for ED.[1]
  • Lifestyle – A variety of habits can contribute to ED, from being physically inactive to frequently using recreational drugs or smoking. Additionally, lifestyle-related conditions like obesity can also contribute to high blood pressure or cardiovascular illness.[5]

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

Many men and people AMAB who have hypertension aren’t aware of their health status.[3] Often, high blood pressure only presents with symptoms after it’s caused endothelial damage.

For this reason, it can help to know some causes and health conditions linked to high blood pressure. These include [6]:

  • Leading a sedentary or inactive lifestyle
  • Experiencing elevated stress levels
  • Carrying excess weight
  • Eating a diet high in sodium
  • Drinking alcohol frequently
  • Having diabetes, especially untreated diabetes
  • Smoking

Your healthcare provider should check your blood pressure at least annually, during your yearly check-up. This can help ensure early signs of hypertension are caught and dealt with before they cause real damage.

Treating High Blood Pressure

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, several approaches are widely recommended for treatment and reducing your risk of long-term health complications.[7]

Improving Your Lifestyle Habits

Moderate exercise and a wholesome, balanced diet are foundational for supporting healthy and normal blood pressure.[8] One approach to nutrition is the DASH diet, which limits the worst foods for erectile dysfunction, including salt and saturated fats. In turn, it focuses on foods rich in fiber and healthy proteins.[9] Just be sure to consult with a healthcare provider before trying any diet designed to curb high blood pressure.

Taking Medication

Your healthcare provider may recommend certain medicines to help manage hypertension. Common options include [8]:

  • Diuretics
  • Beta-blockers
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers

Having high blood pressure doesn’t always warrant the use of drugs. Be sure to discuss options for high blood pressure medication with your healthcare provider to arrive at a suitable choice for your heart health.

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure

Even people with diagnosed hypertension may observe no symptoms of their condition, making it important to monitor blood pressure regularly.

Fortunately, this can be done conveniently with a home blood pressure monitor.[7] Just be sure to get your healthcare provider’s input on what a healthy range is for you and your health history.[7]

Managing Other Conditions

If your hypertension has resulted from another comorbidity, it’s crucial to care for your other conditions to ensure you achieve the best possible health outcomes.

For instance, approximately 60% of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure.[7] Monitoring your blood glucose levels and diet can significantly improve health risks associated with high blood pressure, like having a stroke.[7]

Confront Erectile Dysfunction With Everlywell

For many people, social stigma or personal embarrassment can make it difficult to confront ED. But since ED is known to be an early sign of high blood pressure, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider if it’s an ongoing problem.

Remember, while ED can be frustrating to contend with, it’s fairly common. So, what age does erectile dysfunction start? An estimated 10% of men and people AMAB below the age of 40 and 40.6% of men over the age of 40 experience sexual dysfunction.[2]

Get to the root of the issue and put your health back on track by booking an online men’s health session with an Everlywell telehealthcare provider today.

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  1. What Is Erectile Dysfunction? Cleveland Clinic Medical. Last reviewed August 28, 2023. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  2. Ma, Ming, et al. Current Approaches to the Diagnosis of Vascular Erectile Dysfunction. Translational Andrology and Urology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2020, URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  3. High Blood Pressure and Sex: Overcome the Challenges. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 21 Jan. 2023. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  4. Erectile Dysfunction. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 Mar. 2022. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  5. Moon, Ki Hak, et al. Obesity and Erectile Dysfunction: From Bench to Clinical Implication. The World Journal of Men’s Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2019. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  6. High Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last Reviewed: May 18, 2021. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  7. Manage High Blood Pressure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  8. What to Know When Choosing Blood Pressure Medicines. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Aug. 2023. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.
  9. How to Make the Dash Diet Work For You. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 25 May 2023. URL. Accessed December 12, 2023.

Jillian Foglesong Stabile, MD, FAAFP is a board-certified Family Physician. Since completing her residency training in 2010, she’s been practicing full-scope family medicine in a rural setting. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s practice includes caring for patients of all ages for preventative care as well as chronic disease management. She also provides prenatal care and delivers babies. Dr. Foglesong Stabile completed a teaching fellowship in 2020 and teaches the family medicine clerkship for one of her local medical schools. Dr. Foglesong Stabile’s favorite thing about family medicine is the variety of patients she sees in her clinical practice.
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