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

Viagra and other impotence pills can improve the brain and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by up to 18 percent, a study has 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 have found that the drugs, originally developed to treat high blood pressure, can enter the brain and activate 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 medicines for diseases such as Alzheimer’s is an expensive process and can take many years.

“Being able to repurpose drugs already licensed for other health conditions could help accelerate progress and open 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 had been 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 developing Alzheimer’s.

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

Researcher Matthew Adesuyan, from 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 are making progress with new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that clear amyloid plaques in the brain, we desperately need treatments that can prevent or slow 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 at the optimal dose.

“A randomized controlled trial with both male and female participants is warranted to determine whether these findings will also apply to women.”

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

Besides helping men perform in the bedroom, Viagra – also known as Sildenafil – has been shown to have several other benefits. Last year, a study found it could help kill tumors of the lung, prostate, stomach and ovaries.