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When we think of Viagra, erectile dysfunction comes to mind. Yet, the truth is, that little blue pill has effects beyond a flagging sex life…
The makers of sildenafil, the drug behind the famous brand, are constantly looking for off-label uses so doctors have more reasons to prescribe it.
To that end, past research has found it may be helpful for pulmonary hypertension, mountain sickness, Raynaud’s phenomenon and even heart disease.
The reason it could improve most of these conditions is its ability to enhance nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation. In other words, improving oxygenated blood flow (obviously to places other than the penis).
Now, thanks to the increase in nitric oxide that Viagra offers, scientists are finding it could be key in easing symptoms for those living with two specific lung conditions…
Increasing blood flow to the lungs
Specifically, the research looked at two lung diseases that are not only incurable but frequently get worse over time despite the use of the best available treatment options.
Those diseases are pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
PAH is fortunately a relatively rare disease that causes breathing difficulties and heart strain due to elevated pressure in the arteries of the lung.
On the other hand, IPF is more common and is a result of repeated and chronic thickening, stiffening and scarring of the lungs.
So how can Viagra be used to help even the worst of the worst lung diseases? It’s all about that nitric oxide we talked about earlier.
You see, Viagra works by blocking the work of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase. And through a complex pathway involving other molecules, it ultimately increases nitric oxide in the body, which helps smooth muscles relax and blood vessels dilate — that process known as vasodilation.
So how did Viagra and the nitric oxide boost it offers stack up against those lung diseases?
When pitted against PAH, Viagra:
- Reduced the number of “clinical worsening events” like disease progression and hospitalization by 12.7 percent compared to placebo
- Increased markers of exercise capacity, measured by a six-minute walk test, by almost 50 meters
And when it came to IPF, a Viagra-like drug showed promise in patients with combined interstitial lung disease, including the hard-to-treat disease.
Beyond the blue pill
Unless directed by a doctor, taking Viagra isn’t the only way to grab a nitric oxide boost. And there are many reasons healthy people would want to…
Athletes swear by it to improve endurance.
And numerous studies show nitric oxide is the pathway to better blood vessels, blood pressure and blood flow.
So how can you increase your natural nitric oxide levels without popping a pill?
- Increase L-arginine intake – When you consume the amino acid L-arginine, it’s broken down and used by your body to produce nitric oxide. And it’s easy to up your intake by eating foods like spinach, lobster, crab, turkey, fish and chicken.
- Try beetroot powder – Beets are packed with dietary nitrates that are converted to nitrites and then to nitric oxide in your gut, bloodstream and organs. This makes beetroot powder a great way to level up your nitric oxide to help the smooth muscles relax and get more oxygenated blood flow to the organs. Spinach is also a good source.
- Limit salt intake – Be sure to keep the salt in your diet minimal since research has shown it can diminish nitric oxide production.
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Viagra’s Other Uses — Science Daily