For Alzheimer’s patients, Godot might not be looking so far

“Like Viagra for dementia,” is the cover line of the New York Times Magazine’s Sunday supplement – and the suggestion is that Godot will probably be better off since the widely used erectile dysfunction drug might also be effective in helping to control dementia’s cognitive decline.

This isn’t the first time that the Journal of the American Medical Association has suggested that Viagra, popularly known as sildenafil citrate, may help control memory loss.

Related: Should hard drugs be recommended for lowering blood pressure?

But this is the first time the journal has specifically addressed Alzheimer’s disease. A recent Canadian study found, for example, that men taking sildenafil lowered their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 40 percent, compared to those on placebo, while a European study showed that those taking sildenafil regularly in the years before they developed Alzheimer’s had their risk of the disease about 50 percent lower than patients taking anti-depressants and exercise.

The new study from the Mayo Clinic finds that using sildenafil in the 18 months leading up to Alzheimer’s diagnosis and continuing to use it for five years increased people’s cognitive ability by 29 percent.

Godot won’t be totally missed. But the article notes that men with prostate cancer are often treated with radiation, which also preserves memories, and the paper hypothesizes that adding sildenafil may help preserve the effects of radiation.

The article also notes that several types of antidepressants help in this regard.

At the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Som Chirag, the lead author of the study, said that the findings could have significant implications for both men and women who suffer from Alzheimer’s – and could potentially lead to better treatment.

He said that more research needs to be done to explain exactly how sildenafil might work in increasing cognitive ability, but that other therapies that use oral medication may also be effective at stimulating cognitive ability.

He said that for men who don’t know they have Alzheimer’s, this could be a reason to maintain their sex life, noting that men who live long enough to reach menopause have a greater chance of developing the disease. (Men don’t usually start experiencing memory loss in their late 50s.)

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