Viagra May Reduce Heart Attack Risk in Men With Type 2 Diabetes

The erectile dysfunction drug Viagra (generic name sildenafil) and others in its drug class may decrease the risk of having a heart attack and increase the chances of surviving a heart attack in men with Type 2 diabetes, according to new research from the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in people with diabetes, who are at least twice as likely as those without diabetes to have heart disease or a stroke.

Viagra is in a class of medications known as phosphodiesterase type-5, or PDE5, inhibitors. These drugs work by blocking an enzyme that breaks down the chemical cyclic guanosine monophosphate, which relaxes blood vessels, increasing blood flow. Previous research has shown that PDE5 inhibitors may help protect the heart.

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To evaluate how PDE5 inhibitors affect the heart health of men with erectile dysfunction and Type 2 diabetes, researchers look at electronic health records from January 2007 through May 2015 for nearly 6,000 men with Type 2 diabetes ages 40–89. Among this group, 1,359 of the men were prescribed a PDE5 inhibitor.

The investigators found that men who were prescribed a PDE5 inhibitor had a 31% lower risk of death by any cause and significantly fewer heart attacks compared to those who were not taking a medicine for erectile dysfunction. Among the 1,031 men who had a history of heart attack or a heart attack during the study period, men taking a PDE5 inhibitor had a 40% lower risk of death.

“Our laboratory work was pointing us towards the potential benefits of these erectile dysfunction treatments on the heart, so it’s reassuring to learn that they could reduce heart attack risk and improve heart attack survival in people with diabetes,” noted researcher Andrew Trafford, BVSc, CertVA, PhD, MRCVS. “Erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra are already licensed for use so, if clinical trials provide further evidence of a lifesaving benefit, it might be possible to start treating people with this drug in the not too distant future.”

The researchers are now conducting animal studies to determine whether these medicines can prevent abnormal heart rhythms, which kill up to half of people with heart failure.

For more information, see the University of Manchester press release “Viagra Linked With Reduced Heart Attack Risk and Improved Heart Attack Survival” or the study in the journal Heart. And for more information about keeping your heart healthy with diabetes, read “Taking Diabetes to Heart,” by Drs. Laura Hieronymus and Kristina Humphries.

If you or someone in your family has Type 1 diabetes, then you may be interested in the upcoming Children With Diabetes “Friends for Life” conference. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.