ItHome Hypertension Garth Rattray | Death before ‘dishonour’ | Commentary

Garth Rattray | Death before ‘dishonour’ | Commentary

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I received a very sad news recently; someone that I met just a few years ago died. The person who told me of the death was among a small group of tradesmen that I encountered. He remembers well how I begged and cajoled and encouraged one of them to take his blood pressure medication. He complained that he was afraid of taking tablets for his very high blood pressure because (people say) that it will cause erectile dysfunction (ED).

The belief that blood pressure tablets cause ED is a common but unjustified one. The blood pressure lowering agents of old were known to cause ED in some men but it is extremely rare for the newer agents to cause it. After practising medicine for almost 40 years and prescribing hundreds of thousands antihypertensive medications, I have only seen very few genuine ED cases caused by them. Yet, the myth lives on.

I always explain this to concerned patients and I tell them that they should at least try the tablets, but the unfounded fear of the possible ‘dishonour’, the inability to perform sexually, often consumes them. It is very rare that medications cause ED; however, any ED experienced is almost certainly due to uncontrolled hypertension. But many men find that hard to believe.


I recall a very good friend of mine who barely took his antihypertensive medications although he had dangerously high blood pressure that landed him in the hospital. My friend eventually suffered kidney damage, all because of a fear that was without merit. Aside from kidney failure, uncontrolled hypertension will cause ED and other scary things, like an enlarged heart, heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, dementia, eye damage and possibly blindness, poor circulation to the limbs, aneurysms and even death. I explained that uncontrolled hypertension killed more people than cancer. Still many men remain resolute in their refusal to take antihypertension medications.

In an effort to avoid prescribed medications, some men will resort to taking ‘bush medicines’, garlic, soursop leaves and lime water. However, no scientific research has proven any of those to be effective in lowering high blood pressure, yet some men are determined to try anything except the prescribed medications. Some argue that prescribed drugs all have side effects. The facts are that, although prescribed drugs might have side effects, they are usually minor, but having a high blood pressure has the most dangerous ‘side effects’ imaginable.


People don’t seem to realise that, for any bush medicine or garlic or whatever to do something for you, it must first do something to you, and that something may cause side effects. In other words, for any prescribed medication or alternative medicine to work, it must make chemical changes inside of your body, which might lead to side effects. The trick, therefore, is to weigh the risks. Always consider the good that the medication will do against the possible side effects that it may cause; then weigh the bad that the untreated condition will do against the possible side effects of the medications.

We subconsciously assess risk in our lives every day and don’t even realise it. Before we go out the door, we quickly analyse the risk of crime, and accidents against our wish to go to work, the shopping plaza, the bank or wherever. If we decide to keep going, then we have weighed the risk against the benefits and the benefits won out.

High blood pressure is common and very dangerous. I encourage men to see the benefits of taking antihypertensive medication against the minimal risk of ED. And, if all else fails, there are products to give strong erections to the unlucky few. The heart, brain, eyes, kidneys and limbs are far more precious than any erection.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and

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