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Taking Viagra May Help Men With This Disease Live Longer, Says New Study

Here's how the drug may help increase life expectancy.
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It seems like every day a new study comes out that finds an alternate use for a well-known drug. Surprisingly, new research from Sweden indicates that the drug used to treat mild to moderate erectile dysfunction (ED) may also help men with stable coronary artery disease (CAD) live longer.

The new study, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that men with CAD who take Viagra due to impotence (another name for ED) not only appear to live longer but they also have a reduced risk of having a new heart attack. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now).

We know what you're thinking—how can Viagra help prevent a cardiovascular event in those with heart disease? According to the American Heart Association, ED can be a predictor of cardiovascular disease in healthy men. ED is primarily treated locally with Viagra by taking an hour before sex as it inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase (PDE5) to increase blood flow.

Previously, PDE5 inhibitors were not recommended for men with CAD, as they decrease blood pressure and raise the risk of heart attack. However, in 2017 lead study author Martin Holzmann—adjunct professor at the Department of Medicine, Solna, Karolinska Institutet—and his team of researchers showed that men who've experienced a heart attack tolerate Viagra well. Even more telling, they found that the drug prolonged life expectancy and protected against new heart attacks and even heart failure.

Fast forward to March 2021 and Holzmann and his colleagues took their original findings to the test once again. This time the researchers looked at 16,500 men, a majority of which were just treated with PDE5 inhibitors, and just under 2,000 received alprostadil—a different type of drug that's used to treat ED locally. The data came from drug and cause of death registries.

All of the patients either had a heart attack, balloon dilation, or a coronary artery bypass surgery at least six months prior to beginning treatment for ED. This is because "the risk of a new heart attack is greatest during the first six months, after which we consider the coronary artery disease to be stable," Holzmann said in a statement.

The study revealed that men who received the PDE5 inhibitors not only lived longer, but also had a reduced risk of new heart attack, heart failure, balloon dilation, and bypass surgery than those who took alprostadil. The other key takeaway? The protection proved to be dose-dependent, meaning those who took the medication more frequently had an even lower risk.

Still, it's important to note that this observational study only found an association between PDE5 inhibitors and reduced risk of mortality in comparison to those taking the alternative drug. In short, more studies are needed to confirm Viagra's efficacy in protecting men with CAD from having a heart attack.

"This suggests that there's a causal relationship," Holzmann said. "It is possible that those who received PDE5 inhibitors were healthier than those on alprostadil and therefore had a lower risk. To ascertain whether it is the drug that reduces the risk, we would need to randomly assign patients to two groups, one that takes PDE5 and one that doesn't. The results we have now give us very good reason to embark on such a study."

For insight on how you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack through diet alone, check out These Are the Two Best Diets For Heart Health, According to Doctors.

Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more