MAR 16, 2017 6:21 PM PDT

Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Beneficial After A Heart Attack

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The active ingredient in several types of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) may be protective of heart health, finds a new study from the Karolinska Institutet, examining more than 43,000 male participants for nearly three and a half years.

Credit: Healthline

Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors, also known as the magic behind drugs like Viagra and Cialis, were initially developed to treat angina, a heart condition causing severe chest pain due to a lack of oxygenated blood to the heart. PDE-5 inhibitors are more commonly applauded now for the treatment of ED, but their heart protective qualities have not been forgotten.

Penile erection is a result of smooth muscle in the penis relaxing, a process mediated by a spinal reflex as well as sensory and mental stimuli. A molecular pathway called cGMP produces several compounds that are key players during the penile erection process. Because of the importance of this pathway, drugs treating ED, a lack in penile smooth muscle relaxation, were created to boost cGMP levels. PDE-5 inhibitors prevent PDE-5 from degrading cGMP, elevating cGMP levels and boosting the potential for penile erection.

The new study included men 80 years old or younger being prescribed drugs for ED after their first heart attack. After adjusting for potentially confounding variables like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, researchers observed several protective effects among the men prescribed ED drugs containing PDE-5 inhibitors.

These men were one-third less likely to die from any cause, and 40 percent less likely to be hospitalized for heart failure. This positive association with ED drugs is specific to PDE-5 inhibitors; there was no such association between men after their first heart attack and a different type of ED drug that works via a different mechanism. ED - in general - is associated with an increased risk of heart disease in otherwise healthy men, a link that led to scientists being surprised by their findings.

Despite the observations made during this study, direct cause and effect between PDE-5 inhibitors and heart health has yet to be clearly demonstrated. Is a prescription for ED simply resulting in a more active sex life which then promotes better heart health? Or are older people who are fit enough to continue with an active sex life more likely to have better heart health?

"If you have an active sex life after a heart attack, it is probably safe to use PDE5 inhibitors," said lead author of the recent study, Daniel Peter Andersson, MD, PhD. "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."

Sources: American College of Cardiology, International Journal of Impotence Research, Journal of the American College of Cardiology

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
OCT 06, 2020
Cardiology
A New Heart Drug Taken from a Yellow Dye
OCT 06, 2020
A New Heart Drug Taken from a Yellow Dye
Cardiovascular disease is an ever-present issue in the modern world.  One of the most unfortunate cardiovascular ev ...
OCT 06, 2020
Microbiology
Scarlet Fever 'Superclones' Pose Rising Public Health Threat
OCT 06, 2020
Scarlet Fever 'Superclones' Pose Rising Public Health Threat
More than 100 years ago, the world faced waves of scarlet fever epidemics; between around 1820 and 1880 there were sever ...
OCT 14, 2020
Cancer
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
OCT 14, 2020
Using Plasma Scalpels with Chemotherapy Against Brain Cancer
Cold atmospheric plasma is a relatively new technique that utilizes a tool that generates a sort of plasma scalpel, exce ...
OCT 20, 2020
Cancer
Is your physical activity intense enough?
OCT 20, 2020
Is your physical activity intense enough?
Older adults with higher physical activity and lower sitting time have better overall physical and mental health, accord ...
OCT 22, 2020
Microbiology
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
OCT 22, 2020
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
Since the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 emerged on the scene late last year, it's left a trail of devastation around the glo ...
OCT 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Cord Blood Samples Reveal More About the Genetics of Autism
OCT 24, 2020
Cord Blood Samples Reveal More About the Genetics of Autism
The activity of genes in our genome is controlled by many factors, one of which are chemical tags or structural changes ...
Loading Comments...