Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a progressive condition that leads to a loss of cognitive functioning.
In the United States, roughly 5.5 million people have AD, with a global prevalence of around 24 million people.
These numbers are estimated to double every 2 decades until 2040.
Aducanumab (an anti-amyloid antibody drug) is the only disease-modifying product currently approved for treating Alzheimer’s.
But, recently, many studies have popped up claiming that Viagra could be a promising drug candidate for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
The question is, does Viagra help dementia? Is Viagra good for the brain?
In this guide, we compiled some of the most impactful studies and data that can answer all your queries. Here is all you need to know about Viagra and Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Viagra?
Viagra (sildenafil) is an erectile dysfunction drug. This PDE5 inhibitor can help manage sexual dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension.
PDE5 inhibitors amplify blood flow to the penis, which reduces ED symptoms. It helps you get and maintain an erection.
Viagra is an oral tablet that you take by mouth before intercourse. It is available in 25 mg, 50 mg, and 100 mg doses.
The tablet tends to work 1 hour after you take it. You need to be sexually stimulated and aroused for it to work.
Who can take Viagra?
Most men older than 18 can use Viagra for ED. You shouldn’t use the drug sildenafil if you don’t have erectile dysfunction.
The use of Viagra for women is not FDA-approved. But, studies show that Viagra’s health benefits can help women respond better to sexual stimulation and get sexually aroused.
What is Viagra used for?
Viagra is mainly used as an erectile dysfunction treatment. The drug can help men who can’t get or keep an erect penis rigid enough for pleasurable penetration. Most adults can also use sildenafil for pulmonary hypertension.
Other benefits of Viagra include:
- Improved ability to urinate
- Avoiding mountain sickness
Doctors can suggest off-label uses for the treatment of sexual arousal disorder in women and the secondary Reynaud phenomenon.
Patients can also take the drug as another treatment used alongside other medicine for altitude-induced hypoxemia.
It is important that you are extra careful when you use Viagra. For example, people who use blood pressure treatments and Viagra can notice their blood pressure dropping too low. This can cause dizziness and fainting.
So, let your doctor know about the medications and any health problems you have before you use Viagra.
Can Viagra help prevent Alzheimer’s disease?
- Earlier reports found that patients who used sildenafil had lower odds of developing Alzheimer’s.
- In studies, Viagra (sildenafil) helped decrease Alzheimer’s biomarkers. It also improved brain cell growth.
- Older findings support these benefits. They suggest that Viagra could be a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
- New 2022 reports state that sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis) may not be suitable drugs for treating dementia.
Age-related cognitive decline often happens when the blood vessels get damaged. This deprives the brain cells of nutrients and oxygen.
Mechanism of action
The reason why experts studied Viagra for dementia is that Sildenafil, the active ingredient in the drug, increases blood flow. The better the circulation, the more nutrients and oxygen get to the brain.
In 2021, researchers identified sildenafil as a potential drug candidate for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
But, a 2022 DREAM study showed that tadalafil (Cialis) and sildenafil (Viagra) might not be suitable medications for treating dementia.
What the studies say
Here is a more detailed analysis of the different reports.
An Alzheimer’s study published by Nature Aging evaluated the impact of Viagra on the brain.
Experts used computational methodology to use Viagra as a potential therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. This large-scale study used a database of 7.23 million patients.
The research showed that sildenafil led to a 69% decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
A follow-up clinical trial was necessary to test the efficacy. The goal was to further study the connection between Viagra and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers found that focusing on the subtypes of this neurodegenerative disease can help understand the typical underlying mechanisms. This could help discover actionable targets for drug repurposing.
The buildup of tau proteins in the central nervous system causes tau neurofibrillary and amyloid plaque tangles. These are the two hallmarks of AD-related brain changes.
Data suggests that the interplay between tau and amyloid is a big contributor to AD.
Therefore, experts hypothesized that medicines that target this molecular network intersection could have a better probability of success.
How are Viagra and Alzheimer’s connected?
Sildenafil can drastically improve memory and cognition, preclinical models show.
After a 6-year follow-up, patients who took sildenafil were 69% less likely to experience Alzheimer’s compared to non-sildenafil users.
Sildenafil had a:
- 55% reduced risk of AD compared to losartan
- 65% compared to diltiazem
- 63% compared to metformin
- 64% compared to glimepiride
This study also found that sildenafil use decreased the odds of Alzheimer’s disease in patients with hypertension, coronary artery disease, and type 2 diabetes.
To further evaluate the effect of Viagra on Alzheimer’s, experts used stem cell models to create an Alzheimer’s patient-derived brain cell model.
In the model, they found that sildenafil reduced the hyperphosphorylation of tau proteins. The drug also amplified brain cell growth.
2020 animal trials showed similar results. The dosage of Viagra for Alzheimer’s can vary.
In mice, 7.5 mg/kg sildenafil was used once a day for 4 weeks. The dose helped improve tau and amyloid pathology and memory.
While a single dose of 50 mg sildenafil in AD patients helped reduce the spontaneous neural activity in the right hippocampus.
However, based on 2022 reports, tadalafil (Cialis) and sildenafil (Viagra) might not be suitable drugs for treating dementia. These dementia and Viagra results are contrary to the previously reported studies.
NIH collaborators and researchers used data from Medicare beneficiaries and found that these drugs don’t curb the risk of AD and related dementia.
Experts studied the risk of AD and related dementia using 2 groups of Medicare beneficiaries with PAH. The groups received tadalafil or sildenafil treatment or another class of medicine.
Results on sildenafil for Alzheimer’s showed there was no reduced risk of AD or related dementia in patients using PDE5 inhibitors.
This study was part of the DREAM initiative. It included experts from Harvard Medical School, NIA, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and more.
Currently, there is no effective treatment for this neurodegenerative disorder. Many studies show that drug combination therapy strategies are more effective than monotherapy.
In Alzheimer’s disease, combination therapy is more effective at reducing the rate of cognitive impairment.
Right now, combination therapy with Memantine and Cholinesterase Inhibitors is the best and most effective treatment. Especially for patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.
Memantine works by reducing abnormal activity in the brain. While Cholinesterase Inhibitors can help temporarily stabilize or improve the symptoms of dementia.
Can Viagra increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease?
Many people wonder if Viagra can cause dementia. There are no Viagra trials that indicate the drug could increase your likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
The currently available data on Viagra and dementia highlighted that sildenafil decreased the odds of Alzheimer’s in patients with high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Because the medicine increases blood flow, it could be useful for the brain. The health benefits of Viagra in previous healthcare data showed that the drug could improve memory function and lessen tauopathy.
How to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
You can decrease your dementia risk by incorporating some lifestyle changes. Many experts suggest that you:
- Keep the blood pressure under control. Avoiding hypertension can help lower the risk of dementia or cognitive decline.
- Start managing the blood glucose. Frequent spikes in blood sugar levels can force the brain to create too much beta-amyloid. This is a protein often associated with AD. At the same time, too low blood sugar can starve the brain of the energy it needs to do various tasks.
- Talk to your doctor about using the right dementia treatments. Sometimes experts can recommend drug combination therapies. They can have better effectiveness.
- Drop the unhealthy drinking and smoking habits. Both habits can affect brain health. If you plan to drink, then do it in moderation.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Exercise can decrease the risk of anxiety and depression. It can also improve thinking and sleep.
Experts have done a wide range of research on Viagra (sildenafil) for Alzheimer’s disease. They are opting for new therapeutic approaches that can help with AD.
Some reports support the benefits of Viagra on brain health. Considering it can improve blood flow, it might be useful for decreasing Alzheimer’s biomarkers and improving brain cell growth.
The older sildenafil Alzheimer’s research states this erectile dysfunction drug could decrease the odds of developing Alzheimer’s.
But, a new 2022 NIH DREAM study, published in October, explains that tadalafil (Cialis) and sildenafil (Viagra) might not be suitable products for managing dementia. Therefore, more research is necessary to evaluate the full impact of Viagra on Alzheimer’s.