TN Helping Hearts

Erectile dysfunction drugs ‘help heart attack recovery’

Article by James Kirby

Viagra and Levitra could well be better than traditional drugs at protecting the heart from damage before and after a severe heart attack, according to a new study.

The erectile dysfunction medications were shown to reduce damage to the heart muscle after an attack in tests on animals by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), whereas nitroglycerin, which is used to treat angina, did not prove so effective.

During a heart attack, heart muscles and surrounding tissue are usually severely damaged and this needs to be repaired if the patient is to survive. The study showed that as Viagra and Levitra improve blood flows around the body, this reparation can occur much more quickly after an attack.

“Erectile dysfunction drugs can prevent damage in the heart not only when given before a heart attack, as we discovered previously, but also lessen the injury after the heart attack,” said study author Dr Rakesh Kukreja, professor of medicine and Eric Lipman Chair of Cardiology at VCU.

“Preserving heart function is critical to optimal cardiac outcomes,” said Dr George Vetrovec, chair of cardiology at the VCU Pauley Heart Center.

“These agents have significant potential to enhance patient outcomes, particularly in high risk circumstances, such as acute heart attacks.”

In addition, it is believed that the impotence drugs could be used in the future to help with coronary artery bypass grafts, coronary angioplasty and heart transplantations.

Before it found fame as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, Sildenafil citrate, best known as Viagra, was originally developed to relieve high blood pressure. It causes blood vessels in certain tissues, such as the lungs, to relax. This improves blood flow from the heart and increases oxygen transport to working muscles.

Sildenafil works by inhibiting phosphodiestrase-5, an enzyme which degrades cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) a cell messenger that causes the blood vessels to relax. By inhibiting the enzyme, the drug allows greater vasodilation and greater blood flow.

According to researchers at the University of Vermont School of Medicine, the erectile dysfunction drug might one day be used to treat a dangerous disorder during pregnancy that spikes a woman’s blood pressure.

Doctors at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit are also studying Viagra as a possible treatment for strokes. Animal tests have indicated the sexual performance drug used by millions of men can improve memory and movement by helping injured brains develop new cells and blood vessels, researchers said. The study will focus on Viagra’s effect on people who have suffered ischemic strokes, which are caused by blocked arteries. Nearly 90 percent of the strokes that occur yearly are ischemic, and they often cause long-term disability and death.

Sildenafil (Viagra), may also be beneficial in treating patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Viagra is used to open up blood vessels, and its use for treating PAH shows promise.

This is particularly significant in the treatment of the disorder in new born babies for whom chronic pulmonary hypertension is virtually a death sentence. It can begin with a heart defect or for reasons that are not well explained; but when the blood pressure rises inside the lungs and stays that way, there is often little that can be done. But a few small studies have recently suggested that babies with deadly pulmonary hypertension may respond with good success to Sildenafil.

So with such positive results on blood flow, it’s no surprise that there is increasing research into expanding the uses of Viagra, Levitra and Cialis into other areas of the human body.