Viagra Can Help Hearts Too

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • Viagra is best known for helping men with erectile dysfunction. The medication helps to relax certain muscles in the penis and therefore increasing blood flow. The main ingredient, sildenafil, is also marketed as Revatio, a medication used to increase the ability to exercise in in people with pulmonary arterial hypertension. It works in a similar way, relaxing blood vessels in the lungs to allow for blood to flow.


    Scientists used this information as a basis for a mega-analysis of studies that had looked at using this type of medication and the effects on the heart which were published between January 2004 and May 214. Their analysis was published in the open-access journal BMC Medicine. In the clinical trials, participants, who had cardiovascular disorders, were given either PDE5i (sidenafil is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor or PDE5i) or a placebo. This inhibits the enzyme PDE5, which can prevent the relaxation of smooth muscle tissue. The participants did not necessarily suffer from erectile dysfunction.

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    Some participants had left ventricular hypertrophy, which causes thickening and enlargement of the heart muscle. When given PDE5, the hearts of these patients did not change shape. In other participants, who had a variety of cardiac disorders, the medication improved the functioning and efficiency of the heart and the heart muscle relaxed between beats. There was not any effect on blood pressure. The researchers were very optimistic about these findings and felt, with further research, this medication could be used to treat a variety of cardiac conditions.


    There were some limitations to the studies, for example, the clinical trials were conducted on men so there isn’t any information on how this medication could help women. And, even though the researchers looked at 24 different studies, there was only a total of 1622 participants who received either PDE5i or a placebo. Larger studies, including women, are needed to determine whether this medication could be a safe, long-term treatment for heart disease.


    Interestingly, sidenafil was first tested as a medication for heart conditions in the last 1980s. During the research, scientists noticed that one of the side effects of the medication was an increase in the number of erections in men. Based on this finding, the medication was used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.


    References:


    “Sildenafil,” Revised 2014, June 15, Staff Writer, The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists



Published On: October 21, 2014