This blog post is all about the basics of male erection: Beyond The Penis. Among other good stuff, it’s got a better discussion than I’ve seen elsewhere of the link between high blood pressure and erection maintenance:

There’s one more thing to know about an erection — because it requires the dilation of blood vessels to get an erection, an erect penis is a relaxed penis.

Think of this: Viagra, and similar drugs, work by dilating blood vessels. This causes a temporary drop in blood pressure, along with an erection (Viagra was developed to treat high blood pressure). That’s why they all have the warning, “may cause unsafe drop in blood pressure” if they are used in conjunction with other blood pressure drugs (certain classes of drugs — nitrates, and also amlodipine, but not most beta blockers, alpha blockers, or diuretics…but listen to your doctor, not me).

I don’t know if there is a “magic number” for a man’s blood pressure that will yield an erection, but let’s say that it is 110/70, when measured AT the penis (not in the arm, as we usually do it). A guy who has a BP of 120/80 in his left arm can get to the 110/70 pretty easily through normal physiologic processes. But what if it BP is 140/90?

As it turns out, an erection is an analog condition, meaning there are an infinite number of stages between fully flaccid and fully erect. So 140/90 may get him an erection, but it isn’t as hard as it was when he was 20. Oh well — age does these things, right?

Wrong. It isn’t age. It’s the BP. If it eases up to 150/100, maybe there is no way for him to get an erection. His penile blood vessels simply can’t relax enough to counteract the tension in his arteries and veins. Maybe with Viagra he can still get hard. Maybe not.

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