Viagra: The Little Blue Pill That Could

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Once upon a time, there was a little blue pill. Its inventors were trying to treat heart disease and prevent heart attacks and found that the little blue pill could dilate blood vessels. The theory was that angina or chest pain could be decreased when more red blood cells carrying oxygen were delivered to heart muscle cells through the dilated coronary vessels. Though good in theory, since it works for nitroglycerin, clinically, the little blue pill wasn't very effective.

The little blue pill wasn't very specific as to where it dilated blood vessels. Not only were heart vessels dilated, but so were blood vessels in other places, and this side effect became its claim to fame. Viagra hit the market as the first treatment for erectile dysfunction and was a superstar.

It was also becoming a superstar in the athletic world. Studies with cyclists and mountain climbers found that at high altitude, the little blue pill dilated blood vessels in the lung and allowed more oxygen to be extracted from the air, increasing the oxygen concentration in the bloodstream. This translated into faster and stronger training. All of a sudden, the little blue pill moved from the bedroom to the playing field...please insert your own performance-enhancing joke here.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014

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