Researchers have determined that a diastolic blood pressure measurement of 80-95 mm Hg is associated with good erectile function, according to a recent paper in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Measurements above or below that point are linked to a higher prevalence of erectile dysfunction (ED) in a U-shaped pattern, the authors explained.
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers expressed as “x over y.” The first number represents systolic blood pressure – the amount of pressure that blood exerts against artery walls during heart beats. The second number, diastolic blood pressure, refers to pressure between heartbeats.
When a man has hypertension, there is greater pressure against the artery walls. This pressure can eventually damage tissue that lines the arteries, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and, in turn, ED.
For the current study, researchers investigated the association between blood pressure and ED in men who had not been diagnosed with hypertension.
The study group included a population-based cohort of 665 men in Finland between the ages of 45 and 70. Their average age was 56 years. The men had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (e.g., a family history of premature cardiovascular disease). However, none had cardiovascular disease itself or were on any blood pressure medications.
The men’s blood pressure, height, weight, body mass index, glucose levels, and lipid profiles were all evaluated by trained medical professionals. In addition, the men completed questionnaires related to depression, alcohol use, and physical activity. Erections were assessed using the five-item International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF-5) questionnaire.
Fifty-two percent of the men had ED based on their IIEF-5 score. Overall, men with better erectile function tended to be younger, cohabitating with their partner, more educated, and less depressed. They also had lower systolic blood pressure and lower pulse pressure levels than men with poorer erectile function. (Pulse pressure is the numeric difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure.)
After adjusting for age, cohabitation status, education, glucose levels, waist circumference, and depression, the researchers found a U-shaped association between diastolic blood pressure and ED prevalence. For example, prevalence was higher among men with diastolic blood pressure measurements of 70 and 110 mm Hg, but lower for men with measurements of 80-95 mm Hg.
The authors noted that their findings did not indicate a causal relationship, nor do they explain the pathophysiology behind hypertension and ED. However, the results might prompt further research in this area.
The U-shaped association between diastolic blood pressure and ED “warrants further investigation but emphasizes the importance of [blood pressure] measurement in physical examination for men with ED,” the authors wrote.
American Heart Association
“Understanding Blood Pressure Readings”
(Last reviewed: November 2017)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Heikkilä, Arto, MD, et al.
“Relationship of Blood Pressure and Erectile Dysfunction in Men Without Previously Diagnosed Hypertension”
(Full-text. Published online: October 6, 2017)
Sheps, Sheldon G., MD
“What is pulse pressure? How important is pulse pressure to your overall health?”
(August 2, 2016)
“High Blood Pressure and Sexual Problems”
(August 6, 2014)