Curcumin is an extraordinarily useful supplement for people who have congestive heart failure. It doesn’t replace the heart medications your doctor may prescribe, but it helps prevent ongoing tissue destruction in the heart and makes the common blood pressure medicine lisinopril much more effective in treating congestive heart failure.
What Is Congestive Heart Failure?
Congestive heart failure is an inability of the heart to keep up with the body’s demands for circulation. Typically congestive heart failure is caused by the tissue damage induced by a myocardial infarction, that is, by a heart attack, but it can also result from high demand on the heart, such as moving to high altitude (a location over 3000 meters/10,000 feet) or constant heavy exercise.
Congestive heart failure presents itself in a variety of symptoms. The classic indicator of the condition is swelling around the ankles and on the feet. Even a slight puffiness in the feet may be an indication of congestive heart failure.
Congestive heart failure also often manifests itself as dyspnea, or shortness of breath. The New York Health Association uses shortness of breath to classify congestive heart failure as stages I through IV, stage I referring to being out of breath after moderate exercise, and stage IV referring to being out of breath even while lying down.
This all-too-common cardiovascular condition can also result in wheezing, rapid pulse, swollen fingers, distention of neck veins, pulsating veins around the eyes, exophthalamos or bulging eyes, frequent urination, nighttime urination, pallor, or constant fatigue. The bottom line about the symptoms of congestive heart failure is that, if you’ve got it, you tend to feel lousy—and usually there’s not a lot your medicines do for you.
What Causes Congestive Heart Failure?
Under ordinary lifestyle conditions, that is, when you haven’t done something like pitching a tent on the side of Mt. Everest, congestive heart failure results from the destruction of heart muscle, typically following a heart attack. Exactly when heart tissue dies, however, depends on the way the heart attack is treated.
When a blood clot first blocks blood flow to part of the heart, that part of the heart muscle may be able to protect itself by going into a kind of cellular hibernation. As long as the heart muscle is undisturbed, the heart can slowly recover.
If the damaged part of the heart is reperfused, that is, reconnected to the circulatory system too quickly, however, heart cells can be flooded with more oxygen and nutrients than they have enzymes to process and burn out, causing permanent damage to the heart.
Congestive heart failure may also occur when there hasn’t been a heart attack. Some other disease events that trigger congestive heart failure include:
- Decompensation, the narrowing of an artery or a heart valve to the point the heart can no longer function.
- Systemic illnesses, such as the flu, causing discomfort, fever, and cough, straining the heart.
- Pulmonary emboli, or blood clots in the lungs, resulting in excessive pressure on the right side of the heart.
- Excessive bed rest.
- Excessive salt or water consumption.
- Severe thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency.
- A number of hormone-related diseases that occur primarily in other organs of the body, such as hyperthyroidism, Paget’s disease, anemia, sleep apnea, or obesity.
In the worst cases of congestive heart failure, doctors typically recommend heart transplant or coronary bypass. Sometimes the interventional cardiologist will be able to treat congestive heart failure with a stent, a copper tube inserted into a coronary artery through a 3 mm-wide incision in the groin or leg, or with cardioversion, a procedure for shocking the heart into a better rhythm.
Milder cases of congestive heart failure are treated with medications such as Lanoxin (digoxin), beta-blockers, ACE-inhibitors (medications such as lisinopril, which help the kidneys remove fluid from the bloodstream), anticoagulants (blood thinners), or inotropic agents (medicines that strengthen the heart beat). Of these drugs, anticoagulants are regarded to especially important to survival, especially during the first 3 to 6 months after surgery or implantation of stents. ACE-inhibitors increase survival rates after any kind of medical intervention to correct congestive heart failure.
What Curcumin Does for Congestive Heart Failure
The way curcumin helps the heart deal with congestive heart failure is by blocking an enzyme that powers a process that activates heart cell DNA to “swell” cells in the heart muscles. Sometimes when the heart has to work extra hard because of heart tissue damage, individual cells go through a process called hypertrophy.
These overworked cells literally become to large to fit in the tissues of the heart. Their electrical connections with their neighbors are disrupted, so they fire out of sync. As more and more heart cells go through the process of hypertrophy, the rhythm of the heart becomes more and more unstable, until eventually atrial fibrillation and other forms of irregular heartbeat can result. When this happens, even if the heart is working hard, it is not very efficient at pumping blood.
Curcumin stops the action a group of compounds known as histone acetylases on heart DNA and prevents hypertrophy. The heart is able to put all its effort into a single, synchronized heartbeat so blood flows more evenly and efficiently out of the heart to the rest of the body.
How Much Curcumin Do You Need to Support Recovery from Congestive Heart Failure?
The amazing thing about curcumin for congestive heart failure is that it only takes a very small dose to “flip the switch” in heart cell DNA that prevents the process of hypertrophy and tissue destruction. Japanese scientists have determined that as little as 60 to 100 mg of curcumin per day is enough to benefit the heart¹².
Taking more curcumin isn’t necessary, but taking even 10,000 mg of curcumin per day, other clinical investigators have discovered, won’t cause any serious adverse effects. Any convenient curcumin formula offering 100 to 1000 mg of curcumin per capsule, once a day, is enough to support heart health.
A Precautionary Note
If you listen to American late-night radio, you may have heard that curcumin somehow magically activates stem cells that migrate into damaged tissue in the heart and repair it without surgery and without drugs. The truth is, ignoring what your cardiologist can do for you is a prescription for disaster.
Curcumin isn’t a substitute for the best cardiovascular care. Curcumin is a supplement to all the offerings of modern medicine for your heart. Taking curcumin may make the difference between getting well fast and getting well slowly—but this versatile antioxidant supplement is always an addition to the best heart medicine available to you.
- Katanasaka Y, Sunagawa Y, Hasegawa K, Morimoto T. Application of curcumin to heart failure therapy by targeting transcriptional pathway in cardiomyocytes. Biol Pharm Bull. 2013; 36(1): 13-7.
- Morimoto T, Sunagawa Y, Kawamura T, Takaya T, Wada H, Nagasawa A, Komeda M, Fujita M, Shimatsu A, Kita T, Hasegawa K. The dietary compound curcumin inhibits p300 histone acetyltransferase activity and prevents heart failure in rats. J Clin Invest. 2008 Mar; 118(3): 868-78. doi: 10. 1172/JCI33160.