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Viagra Could Ward Off Heart Disease, Study Finds

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The popular pill for erectile dysfunction may positively impact another part of the body: your heart.

A new study from researchers at Ruhr-University Bochum (RUB) and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota found sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, prevented against heart failure in dogs.

Sildenafil is used to treat erectile dysfunction in men but it is also used in other drugs like Revatio to improve the ability to exercise in people with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Sildenafil treats erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the penis during sexual stimulation, increased blood flow can cause an erection. Sildenafil treats pulmonary arterial hypertension by relaxing the blood vessels in the lungs to allow blood to flow easily.

When tested on dogs, researchers found the drug made inflexible cardiac walls more elastic again.

The belief is that sildenafil activates an enzyme that causes a protein in the heart cells to relax, often within minutes. The study results could be far-reaching — especially since about half of people over 60 currently hospitalized for a weak heart suffer from diastolic heart failure.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Linke of the RUB Institute of Physiology said in a statement, “We have developed a therapy in an animal model that, for the first time, also raises hopes for the successful treatment of patients.”

In fact, human tests are already underway, with Dr. Linke adding, “If, for the first time, the drug is found to have a positive effect on heart failure, we would already have a molecular mechanism on hand to explain the effect.”

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