On call: Viagra, sex, and the heart

On call

Viagra, sex, and the heart

Q. I am 66 years old and have had angina for nearly 5 years. I take aspirin and Zocor, but I haven’t needed nitroglycerin for at least 3 years, even though I ride my bike quite hard at least 4 days a week. I’ve started having trouble with my erections, and now I want to try Viagra. My doctor gave me a prescription, but my wife won’t let me fill it. Is Viagra safe for me?

A. If your wife is worried about your heart, she can be reassured about Viagra (sildenafil). The medication is not safe for men who use nitrates in any form, including nitroglycerin tablets and spray, long-acting nitrate tablets, nitrate patches, and amyl nitrate. But the drug is quite safe for men who do not take these medications, even if they have stable coronary artery disease or well-controlled hypertension. For example, a study from the Mayo Clinic agrees with lots of earlier research and demonstrates that Viagra is safe. More than 100 men with coronary artery disease participated in the trial. Each man underwent two detailed stress tests that used a bike for exercise and used echocardiograms as well as EKGs to monitor the result. Before one of their tests, the volunteers took Viagra (50 or 100 mg, the top dose), and before the other they took a placebo. Compared to the placebo, Viagra did produce a slight drop in systolic blood pressure (the higher number, recorded while the heart is pumping blood), but there were no changes in diastolic blood pressure (the lower number, recorded when the heart is refilling between beats), exercise capacity, symptoms, or echocardiograms and EKGs.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

Disclaimer:

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.