High Blood Pressure and Viagra --- Is It
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October 16, 2012, last updated October 22, 2013
By L. Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Erectile dysfunction is devastating for your self-esteem and your sex
life. But men no longer have to put up with a less-than-satisfying
erection – enter the wonder-drug Viagra. Viagra, generic name
sildenafil citrate, is leaping out of the laboratories at a rate of nine pills
per second. Pfizer, the company that makes Viagra, boasted sales of
$1.93 billion in 2008 for its most popular drug. Pfizer claims that more
than three million men use the drug worldwide.

But along with success stories of reinvigorated sex lives, Viagra has
drawn press concerning links between high blood pressure and erectile
dysfunction. More than 74.5 million people in the United States have
high blood pressure, or hypertension, according to the American Heart
Association. The Department of Health and Human Services says high
blood pressure is divided about equally between men and women,
meaning approximately 37 million men have the condition.

Are these men risking their health when they pop the little blue pill?
What are the risks of Viagra in relation to hypertension? Is Viagra
dangerous if you have high blood pressure?

Why Use Viagra?

Erectile dysfunction, also called ED or impotence, is the inability to get
or maintain an erection which is good enough to satisfy both sexual
partners. Erectile dysfunction affects most men at some point in their
lives, with as many as 5 percent of 40-year-olds suffering on a regular
basis (National Institutes of Health). Viagra is one of the drugs
commonly prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction. Viagra works by
inhibiting an enzyme that makes a muscle in your penis more likely to
relax, which allows blood to flow to the penis and cause an erection.
The FDA says the pill takes between 15 minutes and 120 minutes to
take effect, although many people claim it is closer to 15 minutes for
most men.

Viagra and High Blood Pressure

Viagra enhances the action of nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator – this
means nitric oxide widens your arteries to the extent that it can lower
your blood pressure. The more nitric oxide there is, the lower your
blood pressure can go. Is this a good or bad thing for people who
already suffer from high blood pressure?

Viagra Helps Treat High Blood Pressure?

Do you have high blood pressure and a weak erection? Use Viagra for
both purposes. Viagra not only helps you in the bedroom, it also helps
your heart according to many experts. In fact, because of the drug’s
blood pressure lowering powers it is now prescribed for treating
pulmonary hypertension (high pressure in the blood vessels supplying
the lungs) as well as erectile dysfunction. A 2005 study from John
Hopkins University showed Viagra lessens the amount of force you
need to pump blood around the body, although the effect is only
evident when the heart is under stress and pumping strongly. The men
in the study who took Viagra saw a 50 percent drop in the strength of
their heartbeat.

Men with controlled high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction
experienced a fall in systemic blood pressure when taking Viagra,
according to a 2001 study by Trinity Centre and Hypertension Clinic, St.
James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland. All this great news for hypertensive
men who also have an erectile problem, right?

Viagra Can Lower Blood Pressure Too Much

Experts urge caution when using Viagra in addition to other blood
pressure lowering drugs. If you are taking drugs like nitrates
(nitroglycerine, isosorbide etc) alongside Viagra there is a risk your
arteries could widen too much and cause a dangerous drop in blood
pressure, according to evidence in the August 2007 issue of Harvard
Men’s Health Watch. However, according to other experts the effect of
Viagra on blood pressure is small. A 2000 study from Massachusetts
General Hospital, Boston found the short term effects of Viagra on
blood pressure and heart rate in men who had erectile dysfunction
were small and not clinically significant.

Can High Blood Pressure Medication Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

On the other side of the coin, evidence has surfaced that some types of
high blood pressure medication can actually
cause erectile dysfunction.  
Diuretics and beta-blockers, often prescribed for high blood pressure,
may cause erection problems, although other medications such as
alpha-blockers and ACE inhibitors are unlikely to cause problems.

But erectile dysfunction is common in men with high blood pressure.
When you suffer from hypertension your erection is often the first to
suffer. What is unclear is whether the need for Viagra is related to the
treatment or the condition itself, according to the American Heart
Association (1988). In other words, does the high blood pressure
medication cause ED or do you first get ED and as a consequence
develop high blood pressure?

The safest thing to remember is don’t mix and match drugs – always
discuss your situation with your doctor before taking Viagra and/or
blood pressure lowering medications. This means getting Viagra from a
registered source (not from the Internet) and fully disclosing your
medical history. Viagra may be a boon or a blow for your high blood
pressure – work with your healthcare provider to find the best solution.

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