WASHINGTON — Taking Viagra may improve a man’s life in more ways than one — especially if he’s suffered a heart attack. A new study finds that heart attack sufferers who use erectile dysfunction drugs after the attack have a significantly reduced risk of death or hospitalization for heart failure.
The study not only shows that it’s healthy for men to continue enjoying the benefits of sex after suffering a heart attack, but using the sexual enhancement drugs known as phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors may play a role in helping men live longer.
“If you have an active sex life after a heart attack, it is probably safe to use PDE5 inhibitors,” says Dr. Daniel Peter Andersson, a postdoctoral researcher at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and the study’s lead author in a press release by the American College of Cardiology.
“This type of erectile dysfunction treatment is beneficial in terms of prognosis, and having an active sex life seems to be a marker for a decreased risk of death,” he says.
It’s an interesting finding for the team because the medications have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in men.
Researchers in Sweden monitored 43,000 men 80 or younger who are part of a national database from every hospital in the country. Those had suffered a heart attack for the first time between 2007 and 2013 were then monitored an average of 3.3 years after the attack. The study authors then looked at the outcomes of men prescribed PDE5 meds, such as Viagra, Levitra, or Cialis, as well as men who used the non-PDE5 erectile dysfunction drug known as alprostadil.
It was found that the men who used the PDE5 drugs after their first heart attack were 38 percent less likely to die from any cause and 40 percent. Those who took alprostadil saw no survival benefit.
However, those who took both the PDE5 inhibitors or alprostadil saw a 40 percent reduced risk of being hospitalized for heart failure than heart attack sufferers who took nothing at all.
Researchers factored in those at risk of cardiovascular ailments such as diabetes, heart failure and stroke when considering the results. Socioeconomic traits and education background were not factored into the study, but the team is planning a follow-up trial to see how such characteristics affect one’s outcome.
Andersson warns that while those who filled more prescriptions for the drugs saw greater benefits, the study was not large enough to make a clear connection to dosage amounts and a direct cause-and-effect for the results was not concluded.
The doctors believe that using erectile dysfunction drugs likely means men are enjoying regular sexual activity, which could promote better health.
“We think that if you have an active sex life it’s probably an indicator of a healthy lifestyle, especially in the oldest quartile—those 70 to 80 years old,” says Andersson. “From the perspective of a doctor, if a patient asks about erectile dysfunction drugs after a heart attack and has no contraindications for PDE5 inhibitors, based on these results you can feel safe about prescribing it.”
Despite the improved odds for being hospitalized due to heart failure, the study did not show an association with reduced heart attack risk for those who use erectile dysfunction drugs.
The study “Association Between Erectile Dysfunction and Death or Cardiovascular Outcomes After Myocardial Infarction,” was presented in March at the at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session in Washington.