Health Men's Health

Viagra for dementia? Erectile dysfunction drugs may prevent Alzheimer’s disease

MINNEAPOLIS – The use of erectile dysfunction medications, like Viagra, may provide an even greater health benefit — preventing Alzheimer’s disease. A new study finds these drugs reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by nearly 20 percent.

The study tracked over 250,000 men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction for five years, comparing those prescribed ED drugs to those who were not. Researchers discovered that men taking erectile dysfunction medications had an 18-percent lower likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s — the most common form of dementia.

This finding implies that medications designed to increase blood flow by dilating blood vessels, such as Viagra and Cialis, could also potentially serve as preventative measures or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. The study involved 269,725 male participants with an average age of 59, monitored over five years. Each participant had recently been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, with 55 percent taking medication for the condition and 45 percent not receiving these prescriptions.

At the beginning of the study, none of the participants exhibited cognitive impairments typical of Alzheimer’s. By the study’s conclusion, 1,119 men developed Alzheimer’s — 749 of whom were on erectile dysfunction medications, showing an incidence rate of 8.1 cases per 10,000 person-years, compared to 370 who were not on these medications, with an incidence rate of 9.7 cases per 10,000 person-years. The term “person-years” accounts for the number of participants and the duration each spent in the study.

Man sits and bed while holding a blue pill

After adjusting for potential influencing factors like age, smoking status, and alcohol intake, the researchers concluded that those who took erectile dysfunction drugs had a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s, particularly those who received the most prescriptions throughout the study.

“Although we’re making progress with the new treatments for Alzheimer’s that work to clear amyloid plaques in the brain for people in the early stages of the disease, we desperately need treatments that can prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Ruth Brauer from University College London, in a media release. “These results are encouraging and warrant further research, which is needed to confirm these findings, learn more about the potential benefits and mechanisms of these drugs, and look into the optimal dosage.”

The researchers note the need for a randomized, controlled trial involving both men and women to verify if the observed benefits also extend to female patients. They also emphasize the study does not establish a causal link between the use of erectile dysfunction medications and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It merely indicates a correlation between the two.

The study is published in the journal Neurology.

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