Don’t let high blood pressure ruin your sex life


A quarter of all hospital admissions in Kenya are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). And 13 per cent of deaths in Kenya are due to cardiovascular diseases. This is the latest data emerging from the Ministry of Health. And the number is still surging ahead. 

It is not so much of a shock nowadays to hear that the friend you were with the previous night died from a heart attack, or is in hospital due to stroke.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is among serious NCDs claiming lives in the country. Prof Elijah Ogola, a clinical cardiologist and lecturer at University of Nairobi says, “a majority of hypertension sufferers are not aware” yet “hypertension is a silent killer.”

While obesity tend to be common among many sufferers of hypertension, Prof Ogola clarifies that even ‘healthy looking’ people can suffer from high blood pressure, which makes the heart work extra hard and could cause hardening of arteries, also called atherosclerosis.

Last year, a pathology report on former minister Otieno Kajwang’ showed “a narrow valve and myocardial infarction” which precipitated a heart attack.

In simple terms, hypertension is more or less a close cousin of heart attack. And it can affect one’s sex life too. Dr Lilian Mbau of Amref Kenya Kibera Clinic says that “complications arising from hypertension can damage nerves and hence affect sensation. Hypertension also affects blood flow, and by extension blood flow to genitalia as it happens during intimacy.”

Arousal usually causes blood to flow into sexual organs and therefore a man’s erection. Women too need a rush of blood into their genitalia. Dr Mbau’s views are corroborated by medics in other parts of the world. Dr Gina Lundberg of the American Heart Association concurs that “high blood pressure can lead to erectile dysfunction. Sometimes erectile dysfunction can be the only indicator of underlying heart disease risk.”Women too, explains Lundberg, are affected sexually.

Some cases of hypertension are due to elevated stress and anxiety, which according to  Dr Lundberg, equals double tragedy, since “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.”

 But Lundberg believes there is nothing to worry about as it’s generally safe to hit the sheets even with high blood pressure.