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Viagra May Cut Heart-Related Deaths for Men with Type 2 Diabetes

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Type 2 diabetics face a much higher risk of adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, than nondiabetics.

While clearly best known for its success in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, sildenafil citrate — the active ingredient in Viagra — may prove to be a lifesaver for men with type 2 diabetes. A recent British study found that type 2 diabetics who take Viagra face a significantly lower risk of heart-related mortality than type 2 diabetics who don’t use the popular ED drug.

This finding has very important implications for men with type 2 diabetes who are said to face a 50 percent higher risk of heart attack than those who don’t suffer from the disease. The British study also revealed that type 2 diabetics who take Viagra or one of the other PDE5 inhibitors are far more likely to survive should they be stricken with a heart attack. PDE5 inhibitors are so called because they temporarily block an enzyme known as phosphodiesterase-5, thus improving blood flow.

ED Drugs Optimize Blood Flow

The heart-friendly benefits of sildenafil citrate  and the other PDE5 inhibitors — vardenafil (Levitra and Staxyn), tadalafil (Cialis), and avanafil (Stendra) — stem from the ability of these drugs to improve blood flow. These drugs were all originally released to help men with erectile dysfunction caused by insufficient blood flow to the penis. However, as has often been observed, what’s good for the penis is also good for the heart, and vice-versa.

In fact, as unwelcome as erection problems may be, for many they serve as an early warning that more serious cardiovascular problems lie ahead. If the relatively small arteries that supply the penis are no longer able to carry enough blood to achieve and maintain an erection, it’s likely that other arteries in the body are also under attack. Those men who heed such early warnings and make lifestyle changes designed to improve vascular health can not only improve erectile function but also reduce their chances of a serious cardiovascular event somewhere down the line.

Damage Caused by Diabetes

Diabetes takes a significant toll on both the central nervous and vascular systems, both of which play central roles in erectile function. They also are critical to optimal cardiovascular health. Viagra helps — at least temporarily — to improve blood flow, which promotes erectile function and cardiovascular health.

The recent British study was previewed online in advance of eventual publication in “Heart,” an official peer-reviewed journal of the British Cardiovascular Society. The research team responsible for the study was led by scientists affiliated with the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, which is based at the University of Manchester in England.

Earlier Lab Test Showed Promise

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One member of the research team was Andrew Trafford, Ph.D., a professor of cardiac pathophysiology at the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and a senior basic science research fellow at the British Heart Foundation. In an earlier laboratory test, Trafford found that cells from a failing heart survived longer when treated with sildenafil citrate. He is currently working on yet another study designed to determine if PDE5 inhibitors can prevent abnormal heart rhythms, which are responsible for the deaths of nearly half of all heart failure patients.

Of the most recent study on Viagra’s effect on heart risk in type 2 diabetics, Trafford said that “if clinical trials provide further evidence of a life-saving benefit, it might be possible to start treating people with this drug in the not too distant future.”

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A recent study found that type 2 diabetics taking Viagra were more likely to survive a heart attack than those who weren’t taking the ED drug.

Nearly 6,000 Men Studied

The most recent study involved tracking the health and habits of roughly 6,000 men with type 2 diabetes over a period of nearly seven years — from January 2007 through May 2015. Study participants ranged in age from 40 to 89. Of those in the overall study group, researchers identified 1,359 who were prescribed and taking PDE5 inhibitors.

Researchers found that men taking PDE5 inhibitors — even as infrequently as once every two months — experienced a lower percentage of deaths and lower risk of mortality from all causes than men who were not taking the ED drugs. And as previously noted, those men taking ED drugs who did experience a cardiovascular event had a significantly higher survival rate than those who weren’t taking them.

Could Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

In yet another diabetes-related study, researchers found that people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes may be able to ward off the disease by taking Viagra. That study, published in the December 2015 issue of the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism,” found that sildenafil improved “insulin sensitivity” in patients who were overweight and considered to be pre-diabetic. The study also found a link between sildenafil and a lowering of a marker closely associated with an increased risk of heart and kidney disease.

This earlier study was much smaller in scale than the more recent study at the University of Manchester. It involved only 42 men and women, who were randomly assigned to take either three daily doses of 25 milligrams each or an identical-looking placebo at the same intervals. The lead author of the study was Nancy J. Brown, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine. In a press release from the journal, Dr. Brown said that “further studies will be needed to determine whether long-term treatment with drugs like sildenafil can prevent the onset of diabetes in high-risk patients.”

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About Don Amerman

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Don Amerman has spent more than three decades in the business of writing and editing. During the last 15 years, his focus has been on freelance writing. For almost all of his writing, He has done all of his own research, both online and off, including telephone and face-to-face interviews where possible. Don Amerman on Google+