Viagra may also lengthen a man’s lifespan, Swedish study concludes

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SOLNA, Sweden — Taking Viagra may do more than just benefit a man’s love life. A new study finds the erectile dysfunction drug can also help lengthen a patient’s lifespan, too.

Researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden report that men who have survived a heart attack could prolong their life by taking the drug. In fact, the more often they use it, the lower their risk of another attack.

Impotence can be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease in healthy men. It is treated either locally with alprostadil, which dilates the blood vessels so that the penis stiffens, or with so-called PDE5 inhibitors such as Viagra or Cialis tablets. The pills are taken before sex, and increase blood flow to the penis.

“Potency problems are common in older men and now our study also shows that PDE5 inhibitors may protect against heart attack and prolong life,” says study author Martin Holzmann, of the Karolinska Institutet, in a statement per SWNS Media. “The protection was dose-dependent, so that the more frequent the dose of PDE5 inhibitor, the lower the risk.”

Erectile dysfunction drugs could protect against deadly heart conditions

Since Viagra and Cialis decrease blood pressure, they were previously not recommended for men with coronary artery disease due to the risk of heart attack. But in 2017, Holzmann and colleagues showed that men who have had a heart attack tolerate the drug well and that it even prolongs life expectancy and protects against stroke and heart failure.

In their new study, the team compared the effect of alprostadil and PDE5 inhibitors including Viagra in men with stable coronary artery disease. The patients had either a stroke, balloon dilation or a coronary artery bypass surgery at least six months before starting treatment for erectile dysfunction.

“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,” says Holzmann.

The study included 16,500 men treated with PDE5 inhibitors, and just under 2,000 who received alprostadil. Data was collected from the patient, drug and cause of death registries.  Results show that men who received PDE5 inhibitors lived longer and had a lower risk of new heart attack, heart failure, balloon dilation and bypass surgery than those who received alprostadil.

“This suggests that there’s a causal relationship, but a registry study can’t answer that question,” says Holzmann. “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.”

As Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors are available by prescription only in Sweden, they cannot be bought over the counter.

But Holzmann hopes that men with coronary artery disease do not shy away from addressing the matter with their doctor.

The research is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

SWNS writer Laura Sharman contributed to this report.