taking medication

8 Questions About Viagra and Heart Health Answered

Highlights

  • High blood pressure can restrict blood flow, leading to erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • Men can take Viagra to treat ED, even if they have high blood pressure.
  • Viagra is not safe to use with all medications or with alcohol.
  • Talk to your doctor to see if Viagra is a safe option to improve your sex life.

Viagra (and its generic counterpart sildenafil) is one of the most popular medications prescribed to treat erectile dysfunction (ED) that’s caused by health conditions like high blood pressure. Read on to find out the surprising ways Viagra affects your blood pressure and your heart health.

1. What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

More than 20 million men experience ED, with that percentage increasing with age. You need adequate blood flow to your penis to get and keep an erection. While this sounds simple enough, there are a lot of factors that can impact how well your blood flows throughout your body.

A few factors include:

  • Age
  • Your nutrition and level of physical activity
  • Certain health conditions (diabetes, obesity, stress, depression)
  • Trauma from accidents like spinal cord injuries

Depending on what’s causing your ED, your doctor may recommend changing your diet and physical activity regimen, seeking mental health counseling, and/or trying medications to treat your ED symptoms. As mentioned above, Viagra is one of the most popular medications prescribed to treat ED.

2. How does Viagra work?

Viagra acts as a vasodilator, which means it helps your blood vessels expand (dilate) to increase blood flow.

Here’s how it helps you get an erection:

  • cGMP enzyme is present in your body
  • Viagra inhibits PDE5 enzymes from destroying cGMP enzymes
  • cGMP expands blood vessels
  • Blood flows to the penis, producing an erection

Usually, the cGMP enzyme is destroyed by PDE5 enzymes. That’s why Viagra and similar medications that treat ED, like Cialis and Levitra, are known as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, or PDE5 inhibitors.

Now that you know how it works, let’s dive into the big questions, how does Viagra (and other ED meds) affect your blood pressure and heart health?

3. How does Viagra affect blood pressure?

getting blood pressure check

Viagra lowers blood pressure. Blood pressure describes how hard blood is pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. The harder your body works to circulate blood throughout your body, the higher your blood pressure will be.

Remember that Viagra is a vasodilator, so it relaxes your blood vessels. That means that your body doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body. Thus, taking Viagra will lower your blood pressure.

4. Is Viagra Safe for People With High Blood Pressure?

For most people, yes.

In most cases, it is safe to take Viagra even if you have high blood pressure (hypertension). However, talk to your doctor to make sure Viagra is not contraindicated (not recommended) for any medications you’re taking or planning to take, especially if it’s for blood pressure or prostate issues.

Don’t take Viagra if you take:

  • Alpha blockers
  • Nitrates (medications with nitroglycerin)

Use caution when taking Viagra if:

You’ve had a heart attack or stroke in the last six months, or if you’re also taking:

  • CYP3A4 inhibitors
  • Ritonavir
  • Certain antifungal medications or medications for HIV

Don’t drink heavily with Viagra

It’s also best to avoid alcohol when taking Viagra, as alcohol acts as a depressant to your central nervous system, which can lower blood pressure as well. Combining the two could result in dangerously low blood pressure (hypotension).

5. Is Viagra Safe If You Have Low Blood Pressure?

Again, the answer is yes for most people. Even though Viagra lowers blood pressure, it’s usually not a drastic drop. For example, when researchers gave Viagra to two groups of men (those with normal blood pressure and those with high blood pressure), the difference in blood pressure drop between groups was minimal, according to research published in Urology. Typically, bigger drops were the result of older age, not Viagra.

6. Is Viagra Bad for Your Heart?

holding a paper heart

First, let’s look at what is bad for your heart: chronic high blood pressure (hypertension). Over time, the intense pressure on your blood vessel walls causes them to weaken, damaging your arteries. This is bad news because arteries are responsible for bringing oxygen to your heart.

Given this effect, it is not surprising that high blood pressure is linked to:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Heart attacks
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke

Viagra may actually be good for your heart. A 2005 study by Johns Hopkins Medicine found that Viagra actually protects the heart against stress. A 2014 study concluded that Viagra also protects the heart from conditions like ventricular hypertrophy.

These protective effects aren’t completely surprising, as Viagra was first studied as a medication to treat chest pain. It was only during those studies that researchers realized it also helped men get erections.

7. Can You Take Viagra After a Heart Attack?

Again, in most cases, the answer is yes. Once a man has recovered from a heart attack, he is generally able to go back to the sex life he’s used to.

As long as you’re not taking nitroglycerin (nitrates), your doctor will probably OK a return to sexual activity, though he may make precautionary recommendations.

8. What else do I need to know about taking Viagra and heart health?

Viagra is only available via prescription from a licensed healthcare professional. Dosages range from 25 milligrams up to 100 milligrams. It’s intended to be used on an as-needed basis whenever you want to have sexual intercourse. You should only take one pill per day.

You can take Viagra with food, but avoid fatty foods since this can affect how fast your body absorbs the medication. Viagra takes at least 30 minutes to take full effect, so give yourself some time before initiating sex. Usually the effects last for two to three hours, but may work as long as five hours.

Let’s Recap

couple hugging

High blood pressure can lead to health conditions like erectile dysfunction. Fortunately, the popular ED medication Viagra is safe and effective for most men, even if they have high blood pressure, low blood pressure, or have had a heart attack. As with all medications, there are risks to taking Viagra, so talk to your doctor before taking the little blue pill.

To Learn More

For more frequently asked questions about Viagra, read this blog post.

At eDrugstore.com, we make it easy for men to talk to healthcare professionals and to get erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra. Take advantage of our free online consultation with a U.S.-licensed physician who will write your prescription, or call 1-800-467-5146. Virtual health visits and shipping are always free.

 

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