Health $ Lifestyle

Viagra may slash risk of Alzheimer’s by nearly a fifth, finds study of 250,000 impotent men

Viagra and other impotence pills may perk up the brain and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 18 per cent, a study found.

Men who took the little blue pills for erectile dysfunction had increased brain activity and were less likely to develop dementia in later life.

Researchers found the drugs, originally developed for treating high blood pressure, can get into the brain and trigger cell signals closely linked to memory.

ED is usually treated with phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitor drugs, including sildenafil (Viagra, pictured) and tadalafil (Cialis), which increase blood flow to the penis

Dr Leah Mursaleen, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: ‘Developing drugs for diseases like Alzheimer’s is a costly process and can take many years.

‘Being able to repurpose drugs already licensed for other health conditions could help accelerate progress and open up new avenues to prevent or treat dementia-causing diseases.’

The study, published in the journal Neurology, looked at 269,725 men with an average age of 59 who were diagnosed with erectile dysfunction but no memory or thinking problems.

Over five years, those who did not take Viagra or similar drugs were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at a rate of 9.7 in 10,000, compared with 8.1 in 10,000 among those who did take the pills.

Those who took more pills appeared to have a correspondingly lower risk of contracting Alzheimer’s. 

After adjusting for other risk factors including smoking, diet, alcohol consumption, the pills were linked to an 18 percent lowered risk.

Researcher Matthew Adesuyan, of University College London, said: ‘The results are encouraging and may point to a new way to reduce Alzheimer’s risk.’

Dr Ruth Brauer added: ‘Although we’re making progress with new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that clear amyloid plaques in the brain, we desperately need treatments that can prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

‘More research is needed to confirm these findings, learn more about the potential benefits and mechanisms of these drugs and look into the optimal dosage.

‘A randomised, controlled trial with both male and female participants is warranted to determine whether these findings would apply to women as well.’

Tara Spires-Jones, president of the British Neuroscience Association, said: ‘This study does not conclusively prove that erectile dysfunction drugs reduce Alzheimer’s risk but provides good evidence that this type of drug is worth further study in future.’

As well as helping men perform in the bedroom, Viagra – also known as Sildenafil – has been shown to have various other benefits. Last year, a study found it may help kill tumours of the lung, prostate, stomach and ovaries.

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