Older men like Playboy’s Hugh Hefner and actor Michael Douglas have sung the praises of Viagra, but now scientists say the erectile dysfunction pill is not only good for your sex life — it’s good for your heart.
In the bedroom, Viagra allows greater blood flow to the penis. But in the heart, the “little blue pill” can prevent heart muscle thickening and early-stage heart failure, according to research published today in the open access journal BMC Medicine.
“Large clinical trials are now urgently needed to build on these encouraging findings,” said lead author Dr. Andrea M. Isidori, associate professor of endocrinology at Sapienza University of Rome.
Dosages used for heart ailments are lower than those used for erectile dysfunction, and patients in the study showed few side effects. “Surprisingly, in over 1600 treated subjects, no increased risk of visual disturbance, photosensitivity and ‘blue haze,’ was observed,” he told NBC News.
The active ingredient in Viagra is sildenafil citrate, which is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5i). The inhibitor blocks the enzyme PDE5, which prevents relaxation of smooth muscle tissue.
Researchers analyzed randomized trials that had been published between January 2004 and May 2014, choosing 24 involving mixed populations of patients who were treated with PDE5i or a placebo. PDE5i was given to men who had cardiovascular disorders, but who did not necessarily suffer from sexual impotence, according to Isidori.
The study found that the inhibitor prevented the heart from changing shape in patients suffering from left ventricular hypertrophy, a condition that causes thickening and enlargement of the heart muscle. The drug also improved functioning of the heart in patients with a variety of cardiac conditions, with no effect on blood pressure.
In fact, researchers found that the drug improved efficiency when the heart pumped blood into vessels, along with relaxation between beats. “Very few drugs used in cardiology can actually affect these parameters. For this reason their implications in the treatment and prevention of heart failure are huge.”
However, Isidori notes that because these studies were conducted exclusively on men, the next step should be a larger trial on women.
“A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF SUBJECTS SUFFERING FROM ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION ARE MUCH HAPPIER TO TAKE PILLS FOR HEART FAILURE OR HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE THAN TO IMPROVE THEIR ERECTIONS.
“I am not surprised and it’s good news,” said Dr. Robert A. Kloner, professor of medicine in the cardiovascular division at the Keck School of Medicine at USC in California. “We can always use a new drug for heart failure.”
Kloner co-authored the book, “Viagra: How the Miracle Drug Happened & What It Can Do for You.” He said this is not the first time, scientists have looked to Viagra for potential heart benefits. Continue reading