Besides contributing to cardiovascular problems and increasing your chances of getting a heart attack or stroke, hypertension can affect your sex life, says cardiologist Dr. Gina Lundberg.

In a recent article published by the America Heart Association, Lundberg explains that by preventing enough blood from reaching the pelvis, hypertension can lead to erectile dysfunction in men ― even those in their 30s. Men with sexual problems should visit a doctor, she says, because it could also signify a risk of underlying heart disease.

According to Lundberg, women with high blood pressure may have less of a sex drive, because they feel exhausted. An article by medical specialists at MayoClinic.com, a consumer health website, agrees that a link between high blood pressure and sexual problems has been proven in men, but says there is no proof yet for women. Later their article says hypertension might affect some women’s sex life by “reducing blood flow to the vagina and thereby causing less sexual desire or arousal, vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm.”

Both articles discuss the side effects of high blood pressure medications on a person’s sex life, such as beta-blockers and occasionally ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors) that cause erectile dysfunction. Nevertheless, Lundberg warns that people shouldn’t avoid treating their high blood pressure because they’re scared the medication will harm their sex life, and they shouldn’t quit medication without consulting a doctor.

Similarly, MayoClinic’s specialists emphasize that having high blood pressure is not synonymous with living without sexual fulfillment and patients should ask their doctors for medications with less side effects. Another option, with a doctor’s approval, is to temporarily stop taking medication to see if that’s causing the sexual problem or not. During this period, frequent blood pressure readings may be required.

Lundberg also mentions the link between stress, hypertension, and sexual dysfunction: “In such situations, men may be less likely to perform sexually or they may experience less sexual satisfaction. Women may be less likely to desire sex during stressful times.”

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