A new report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University claims that the drug Viagra famous for its use in improving sexual performance in men could also reduce the effect of hormonal stress on the heart.
'Unlike what was previously thought, drugs like Viagra can in fact alter heart function. It alters it particularly when the heart is stimulated by hormones,' said lead researcher Dr. David Kass, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. Viagra (sildenafil) reduces the harmful effects of the hormones on the heart by an astounding 50 percent; claim the researchers in an article that appears in the October 24 online edition of Circulation.
Basically, Viagra helps in maintaining an erection by expanding the genital blood vessels. This is particularly useful in several erectile dysfunction conditions and impotence.
Recently, the drug has also been used to treat pulmonary hypertension or the increased pressure of the blood within the lungs. But until now there were no known effects on the heart.
In an earlier study, Kass' team had found that Viagra exerted beneficial long-term cardiac effects of chronic high blood pressure in laboratory mice. In the present study, 35 healthy men and women with no overt heart disease were given two separate injections of dobutamine in three hours. This drug increases the heart rate as well as pumping strength. In between the injections, the participants were given either Viagra or a placebo. After the first injection there was a 150 percent increase in heart rate, but was reduced to 50 percent in people who received Viagra. "Viagra puts a brake on the effect of dobutamine,' Kass said. 'It reduces the stimulation of the heart so that the contraction of the heart was less strong.' The next step will be to see if the drug can be used to treat heart failure, "If you gave a drug like Viagra not just acutely, but chronically, you might be able to improve heart function and reduce the chronic stress response in patients with hypertrophy,' Kass concluded.