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Photography by Megan Madden; Prop Styling by Sara Schipani

Your blood pressure is a measure of the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries. If you have high blood pressure, you’re at an increased risk of developing serious conditions such as a heart attack, stroke, and heart failure.

It’s normal for your blood pressure and heart rate to rise during sexual intercourse and masturbation. Even most people who have high blood pressure can enjoy sex and masturbation safely.

Sexual activity is usually the cardiovascular equivalent of mild to moderate physical activity, such as climbing two flights of stairs or brisk walking. Anybody who can accomplish this level of activity can likely masturbate.

Keep reading as we dive deeper into the connection between masturbation and your blood pressure.

Your heart rate and blood pressure rise during sexual intercourse or masturbation until they reach their peak during orgasm. After orgasm, they quickly descend to their normal values.

According to a 2012 study, it’s rare for your heart to beat faster than 130 beats per minute and for your systolic blood pressure to exceed 170 mm Hg during sexual activity with normal blood pressure.

For most people, masturbation is unlikely to raise your blood pressure to a dangerous level, even if you have high blood pressure.

People with some pre-existing health conditions, such as a brain aneurysm, may need to limit activities like masturbation that cause rapid spikes in their blood pressure. A brain aneurysm happens when a bulging blood vessel in your brain increases your risk of a stroke.

A 2016 case study presents a rare case of a 24-year-old woman with a brain aneurysm who experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage and died while masturbating. A subarachnoid hemorrhage happens when a broken blood vessel bleeds into the space between your brain and the surrounding tissue.

If you have a known brain aneurysm, talk with a doctor about whether engaging in sexual activity is safe.

Your blood pressure and heart rate increase during all sexual activities, not only masturbation.

Sexual arousal leads to a complex series of reactions in your body that involves changes in your nervous, circulatory, and endocrine systems.

Sexual arousal is often broken into four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, resolution:

  • Excitement phase. During the excitement phase, your heart rate speeds up, and your blood pressure starts to increase. You also begin to experience other changes like increased breathing, blood flow to the genitals, and muscle tension.
  • Plateau phase. During the plateau phase, your blood pressure, heart rate, and the other changes you experienced during the excitement phase increase until you reach orgasm.
  • Orgasm. Your heart rate and blood pressure reach their highest point during orgasm and you experience involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Resolution. After orgasm, your body quickly returns to its normal functioning before arousal.

Few studies have directly examined the benefits of masturbation, and most of the evidence at this time is anecdotal.

Potential benefits include:

May lower risk of prostate cancer

Some research suggests that frequent ejaculation in males may be linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer. But more research is needed to fully understand the connection.

In a 2016 study published in European Urology, researchers surveyed a group of 31,925 men about their ejaculation frequency between 1992 and 2010.

The researchers found that men who ejaculated more than 21 times a month were less likely to have developed prostate cancer 10 years later than men who ejaculated only 4 to 7 times.

May improve heart health

Masturbation may raise your heart rate to the equivalent of mild to moderate activity.

In theory, raising your heart rate with masturbation could have a positive effect on your cardiovascular health. But there currently are no studies to support this idea.

Masturbation is generally safe. Despite the many myths surrounding masturbating, it isn’t known to cause any particular health conditions.

Here are some minor, temporary side effects that may be possible with masturbation if you aren’t careful.

Genital soreness

Masturbation can occasionally lead to genital soreness or injury, but it’s rare for injury to be serious.

A 2009 study found that vibrator use among women was associated with health-promoting behaviors and positive sexual function.

The researchers also found that 71.5 percent of the woman never experienced negative genital symptoms related to vibrator use.


Washing your hands before masturbating can help keep transmittable bacteria away from your genital area. If you use a vibrator or sex toys when masturbating, keep them clean to avoid developing an infection.

A person with a vagina has a higher risk of developing an infection than a person with a penis due to the increased presence of bacteria and moisture in the vagina.


When you masturbate, your brain releases dopamine and other hormones. Dopamine is the “feel-good” hormone your body uses in its reward system.

Some people do develop compulsive masturbation behaviors akin to those observed in addictive behaviors.

Like sex addiction, masturbation addiction is not truly a mental health condition. But you may want to consult a mental health professional or sex therapist if you experience any of the following:

  • masturbation is damaging your relationships due to disagreements about masturbation related to your relationship
  • you frequently cancel plans with friends or family whose time you value to masturbate
  • masturbating is interfering with other daily activities that you enjoy or value, such as your work or other hobbies
  • you can’t stop thinking about masturbating


Some people experience guilt about masturbating. But masturbation is a natural and healthy sexual activity.

If you’re feeling guilty for masturbating, you may find it helpful to talk with a therapist specializing in sexual health.

Death grip syndrome

For a person with a penis, masturbating with an excessively tight grip can lead to “death grip syndrome,” desensitization of the penis.

To reverse this loss of feeling, it’s often recommended that you take a break from sexual stimulation for about a week before easing back in. It may also help to loosen your grip or try using gentler strokes.

If you’re worried that masturbation is interfering with your life or causing health issues, you may want to speak with a doctor or a sex therapist.

For a person with a penis, you may want to see a doctor if you have difficulty achieving an erection. Erectile dysfunction may have an underlying cause that requires treatment, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

See a doctor if you’ve noticed any other concerning symptoms while masturbating, such as:

  • pain
  • tingling
  • numbness

Masturbation and sexual intercourse cause an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Even for most people with high blood pressure, this increase isn’t a cause for concern, and most people with high blood pressure can engage in sexual activity safely.

If you have a medical condition that could be aggravated by a rapid spike in your blood pressure, such as a brain aneurysm, you may want to talk with a doctor before masturbating or engaging in other forms of sexual activity.